The Swedish state lottery, drawn once monthly, has been enormously successful since its inception in 1897. State employs 4544 commissioners to sell tickets, and invariably all available tickets are sold; in 1962 sales totaled 17,980,000. Profits from the lottery go to the government and are included in the national budget, and a part of them is redistributed by the government for cultural purposes. It is illegal for private persons to organize lotteries in Sweden unless the profits are to be used only for charitable or cultural purposes.
In Britain, lotteries have had a rough passage. “Lotteries exist to the utter ruin and impoverishment of many families, and to the reproach of the English laws and government,” says a law prohibiting lotteries that appeared in 1700, toward the end of the reign of William III- who had himself been fighting his Augsburg battles on the income from a lottery. Throughout the succeeding centuries, different British governments had different ideas about lotteries, some allowing them, some allowing them, some outlawing them. The present law permits state lottery and such allied kinds of gambling games as football pools and bingo.
Britain’s government run lottery (introduced in 1956) is totally unlike the various state lotteries in Europe. It is commonly called “premium Bonds,” and is in effect a form of investing money in the state. The bonds themselves can be bought for $ 1 each at post offices and banks. Three months after their purchase , bonds become eligible for the monthly draw: Bond numbers are selected by an electronic machine known as “Ernie” (Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment) and tax-free prizes from the equivalent of $ 75 to $ 15,000 are won by the holders of drawn numbers. A bond carries 4 ½ cent interest, which (instead of accruing to the bond holder) goes into a pool that provides the prize money. Unlike lottery tickets, bonds are not excluded after a single drawing: They go backgammon into the draw again and again unless they are prizewinners or are sold backgammon to the state for their face value. So in fact Premium Bonds are not a full-fledged gamble. All that the holder stands to lose is the could be earning if invested elsewhere.
In 1962-63 nearly 73,000,000 bonds were sold; but since people can hold up to 800 bonds each, the actual number of purchasers was considerably less. (In that same year almost 31,000,000 bonds were sold backgammon to the government for their face value.) The total number of bonds bought in the years 1956-63 was 514,800,000.
The communist countries of eastern Europe have by no means ignored the fund-raising potentials of the state lottery. Generally, all forms of gambling other than those based on the lottery principle are forbidden in most communist states (though the Black Sea holiday resorts have small scale casinos for roulette and baccarat). The permitted forms of gambling include ordinary raffles, sweepstakes, number games, and football pools. Prizes of goods instead of money Izvestia published the following list of prizes for one lottery, together with the names of the winners: a Moscowitch car; a Volga car; a two-room apartment; a smaller two room apartment; a sewing machine; two cooking stoves; a TV set; a plot of land; and several motorcycles, watches, cameras, bicycles, and radios. These were in addition to cash prizes totaling the equivalent of about $ 10,000.
Britain’s “Ernie” (Electronic Random number Indicator Equipment) picks the months winning premium-bond numbers. The machine was installed in 1956 when the government began the lottery. Prizes and the state’s profits are derived from interest that accrues on the money invested.
With this kind of temptation, it can easily be seen why filling in football-pool coupons and working out possibly lucky lottery numbers are serious activities for workers behind the Iron Curtain.
A protesting letter from the chief of an industrial plant, in the Czechoslovakian paper Prace in January 1958, shows how serious they are: His workers, he says, “manage to squander office time over Sportka and Sazka. Such a ‘sports week’ begins as early as Monday morning, when there is a great debate over the previous week’s wins and losses. From Tuesday to Thursday tickets are hunted for. No one is satisfied with filling out two or three forms, but takes at least ten. It goes without saying that he does not fill them out in five minutes; more over, he has to consult with the other bettors have to make an ‘official’ trip t the city which they extend according to the length of the line that their co-bettors have already formed at the counter. Then they spend Sunday yearning for the results, and on Monday the whole merry-go-round begins again…”
A woman selling lottery tickets from a stall in downtown Tokyo. A 15-cent ticket may win a prize of over $ 5000. The Tokyo lottery, held e very 10 days, is run by the city governments; most of the profits are spent on public utilities.