Did you know that the modern lottery was created in Belgium?



The lottery, as we know it today, originated 580 years ago in Bruges. In the city's archives, in the book of accounts of 1441 to 1442, there is a paragraph that refers to the Bruges invention. The concept spread, first to Italy, then to Europe and subsequently to the rest of the world, with the success that can be seen today in three quarters of the world's countries.

It is also understood that lotteries already existed in China, 200 years Before Christ, and in ancient Rome, but not in their present form, where part of the proceeds finance community projects.


So what characteristics of the Bruges invention have made it so successful?


What took place in Bruges in 1441 was a public draw with financial prizes and a precise plan of the lots. This draw was organised to generate funds for a good cause or finance urban projects.


At the time, our regions were part of the States of the Dukes of Burgundy, who were much more powerful than the King of France. Bruges played an important role, thanks to the city's wealthy merchants who linked the Baltic and the Mediterranean in the late Middle Ages. There is no doubt that it was in Bruges, on 10 January 1430, on the last day of the festivities of his marriage to Isabella of Portugal, that Philip the Good (Duke of Burgundy) founded the Order of the Golden Fleece.  But its inhabitants never stopped revolting against Burgundian authority. So much so that Philip the Good ended up imposing a heavy fine on the city which emptied the city's coffers. This led to the idea of organising this lottery, to collect resources that would be made available to the community. No fewer than 4,304 lottery tickets sold like hotcakes for this first event, raising a total amount of 1,737 florins. Taking into account six centuries of inflation, this amount can be estimated at 170,000 euros.


It was a child who drew the lots, and it could take days. It was great popular entertainment, with a stage in front of the belfry. The name lottery itself comes from the Flemish lotinghe which means "to divide into shares or lots", but also refers to the notion of chance, with lot meaning fate or destiny. The Italian word lotto has the same origin. The cities of northern Italy (Milan and Florence, among others) seem to have had similar forms of gambling very early on, which they first called fortuna, ventura or venturina, then, after 1500, most often lotto.


While the National Lottery will be celebrating this anniversary in Bruges with three festive medieval style draws, it wants to go further by making contacts to have the lottery included as UNESCO World and Intangible Cultural Heritage.