Table of contents
Here’s a midsummer night’s daydream: You — who have never won a single thing in your entire life — decide to take a wild leap and play the lottery. Why? There’s something about free money that seems rather appealing. Now then, you scratch the card, cross your fingers, avoid the 13th floor, and generally hope for the best. Then, right on July 17 — National Lottery Day — it happens. You win the big dollars and spend the rest of the month searching for the perfect beach house on Kauai.
Well, maybe, but one thing’s for sure — you have to play to win. National Lottery Day is a chance for everyone to try their luck and get involved.
When is National Lottery Day 2021?
‘Luck be your lady tonight’ — or today, as the case is, on National Lottery Day on July 17
History of National Lottery Day
The concept of the ‘lottery’ has been around since ancient times. The practice became mainstream in the late 15th century in Europe. Drawing lots to nominate a winner swept across Europe to the United States in 1612, when a lottery was established by King James I to fund the first permanent British settlement in Virginia, North America. From then on, lotteries were used by private and public bodies to raise money for wars, towns, colleges, and community projects.
In early American history of the lottery, George Washington hosted one in the 1760s to finance the building of the Mountain Road in Virginia. John Hancock ran a lottery to rebuild Faneuil Hall in Boston in 1765 and the cannons used during the American Revolution from 1775 to 1783 were paid for by the support of lotteries. Lotteries just seemed too good to be true, as concerns rose regarding their harmful impact on the public. A constitutional prohibition was issued against lotteries, with New York being the first state where it was implemented.
After the Civil War ended, reconstruction in the Southern states was dependent on lotteries. The Louisiana lottery especially became popular. It was abolished in 1894 after Congress banned the transport of lottery materials across state lines. Soon after, the public discovered that the lottery was being run by a crime syndicate that committed fraud and bribed legislators. It was a massive scandal that was widely publicized. Lotteries gained a bad reputation and were completely outlawed by the end of the 19th century.
The negativity surrounding gambling started softening at the turn of the 20th century. Gambling was legalized in casinos in the state of Nevada in the 1930s and gambling for charity also became common.
National Lottery Day timeline
The colonies hold nearly 400 lotteries in the mid-18th century — a Philadelphia newspaper ad promises a "new brick house" for one lucky lottery winner and tickets sell for 20 shillings each.
Although Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands held lotteries back in the 1930s, New Hampshire becomes the first U.S. state to do so — schools there see immediate benefits from sales of sweepstakes tickets.
Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are the first states to combine resources in order to create bigger jackpots — their flagship game, 'Tri-State Megabucks,' continues today.
The Powerball jackpot on January 13 is an incredible $1.586 billion — three lucky winners each take home just over $500 million each.
Buy a lottery ticket! Try your luck, maybe National Lottery Day will increase your odds of winning. Those who have never brought a lottery ticket usually purchase their first one today, just for fun. Special promotions by local- and state lotteries are offered so watch out for them. Interviews with former lottery winners are published on social media, and a general buzz surrounds lotteries on this day.
By the Numbers
$70.1 billion – the amount Americans spent on lottery tickets in 2014.
1994 – the year the first lottery was launched.
85% – the percentage of winners who choose to remain anonymous.
350 billion to one – the odds of winning the lottery.
38 – the most-drawn Lotto ball.
18 – the number of movies funded by the lottery, including “The King’s Speech.”
99% – the percentage of surveyed winners who still play National Lottery games after winning
70% – the percentage of winners who are convinced that they will win again.
4.5 – the average number of cars winners purchase after becoming millionaires.
52% – the percentage of winners who quit their jobs after winning $1 million or more.
National Lottery Day FAQs
On which days is the lottery in the U.K.?
“Lotto” airs every Wednesday and Saturday.
What time is the “Lotto” draw in South Africa?
South Africa’s “Lotto” is drawn on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8.56 PM, local time.
Which U.K. lottery has the best odds?
The game that has the best odds of winning is Thunderball.
National Lottery Day Activities
You have to be in it to win it. Treat yourself to a few tickets and see what happens. You never know, today might be your lucky day.
Pool your money
If you're still paying money to play the traditional way, make it a team effort among friends. Just make sure you all understand how the seven-way split works before you hit the jackpot.
Buy a ticket for a loved one
Share the fun of playing with someone else and buy them a ticket too. If theirs is the winning ticket then we're sure that your generosity will be remembered.
Dream On: The 5 Biggest U.S. Lottery Jackpots Ever
$1.59 billion (2016)
A total of three winning tickets split the largest-ever jackpot — making each one worth more than $500 million. Winners lived in California, Florida, and Tennessee. The California winners assigned most of the proceeds to charity.
$1.54 billion (2018)
A South Carolina woman waited nearly four months to claim the prize. She took a one-time lump-sum payment of nearly $878 million — and remained anonymous.
$768 million (2019)
Winner Manuel Franco purchased his Powerball ticket at a Wisconsin gas station. His reaction? "I was going insane," Franco said. "My heart started racing. I screamed for about 5 or 10 minutes." He chose the lump-sum payment of $477 million. Franco is just 24 years old.
$759 million (2017)
Mavis Wanczyk bought the lucky ticket in Chicopee, Massachusetts. She won about $336 million. Wanczyk immediately quit her hospital job (patient care) after working for 32 years.
$688 million (2018)
The drawing produced two winning tickets. A New York City man named Robert Bailey claimed half — vowing afterwards to remain a lottery player. The other half went to Lerynne West of Redfield, Iowa (total population: 830). West had misplaced her ticket, but eventually discovered it on the floor of her sister's truck.
Why We Love National Lottery Day
The ultimate fantasy
Go ahead. Ask someone the standard "If you had three wishes..." question, and see how many times you hear the word "lottery." It's human nature after all. Pick a few numbers. Win a million (or 100 million) dollars. That's a tough wish to top.
A chance to change the world
Or at least a few lives. You can really start helping people (and worthy causes) once you win the big dollars. You wouldn't keep all your lottery winnings for yourself — now would you?
Just considering a mega jackpot might force you to start assessing what you really want out of life. Maybe it's not actually a new car or tickets to join a future mission to Mars. What if your dream's easier to reach than you think?
National Lottery Day dates