Throughout much of recorded history lotteries have been used as a means to raise funding for public works and continue to be utilized as such today.
The presence of lottery games can be traced all the way back to as early as between 205 and 187 B.C. during the Han Dynasty in what is now China. It is believed that the game Keno, a lottery-like game that is still currently played in modern day casinos, originated at the time. It is thought that even back then lotteries were used to finance government projects, including one of the most famous, the Great Wall of China.
References to lotteries and "drawing lots" have been found in many ancient texts from numerous civilizations from Ancient China, to the Celtic Era, to Ancient Greece in Homer's The Iliad . The first known European lottery occurred during the Roman Empire. At first these lotteries were usually done simply as amusement at dinner parties for the nobility, however during the reign of Augustus Caesar there are records of the sale of tickets for a lottery in order to raise funds for repairs to the City of Rome. However winners were given prizes in the form of articles of disparate value.
It wasn't until 1434 that the earliest public lottery went on record - in the Dutch town of Sluis. And it wasn't until at least a decade later that the first lotteries with prizes in the form of money began to appear in numerous towns in Flanders (present day Belgium, Holland, and France). These first lotteries with monetary prizes were held to raise money to aid the poor and fund fortifications of the towns. These lotteries were hailed as a less painful form of taxation and were quite popular amongst the people. In fact, the English word lottery is derived from the Dutch word loterij which stems from the Dutch noun lot meaning "fate".