(Mental Floss) -- Here are five things you probably didn't know about the lottery.
The multi-state Mega Millions lottery jackpot has soared to over $200 million.
1) Lotteries of yore (They're older than you think!)
Lotteries have been around as long as arithmetic. According to the Bible, God ordered Moses to use a lottery to divvy up land along the River Jordan. That story came from the Book of Numbers (naturally), but lotteries are also mentioned in Joshua, Leviticus, and Proverbs.
The concept can also be traced back to China, where a warlord named Cheung Leung came up with a numbers game (today known as keno) to persuade citizens to help pay for his army.
Other famous lotteries? Augustus Caesar authorized one to raise money for public works projects in Rome. The Chinese used one to help finance the Great Wall. And in 1466, in what is now the Belgian town of Bruges, a lottery was created to help the poor -- a fund-raising effort they've been doing ever since.
2) Founding Fathers took their chances
Displaying every astute politicians' aversion to direct taxation, early American leaders often turned to lotteries to raise a buck or two.
John Hancock organized several of them, including one to rebuild Boston's fire-stricken Faneuil Hall. Ben Franklin used them during the Revolutionary War to purchase a cannon for the city of Philadelphia. George Washington ran a lottery to pay for the construction of a road into the wilds of western Virginia.
And Thomas Jefferson wrote of lotteries, "far from being immoral, they are indispensable to the existence of Man." Of course, when Jefferson wrote that, he was trying to convince the Virginia legislature to let him hold a lottery to pay off his debts.
3) Louisiana: A whole lotto love
By the end of the Civil War, lotteries in America had such bad reputations, they'd been banned in most states.
But not in Louisiana, where a well-bribed legislature in 1869 gave an exclusive charter to a private firm called the Louisiana Lottery Company, which sold tickets throughout the country. For 25 years, it raked in millions of dollars while paying out relatively small prizes and contributing chump change to a few New Orleans charities.
Finally, in 1890, Congress passed a law banning the sale of lottery tickets through the mail, and eventually, all multi-state lottery sales were banned.
What's a corrupt U.S. company to do? Move offshore, of course! The Louisiana Lottery moved its operations to Honduras, and America was lottery-free until 1963, when New Hampshire started the lottery cycle anew.
4) Inaction Jackson: Lottery's biggest loser
Clarence Jackson's luck began to run out on Friday the 13th of October 1995, when the Connecticut Lottery picked the numbers on Jackson's lotto ticket. He and his family members won $5.8 million, only they didn't know it. In fact, they didn't find out until 15 minutes before the one-year deadline to claim the prize, despite a whole slew of lottery ads seeking the winner.
Jackson, a 23-year-old who'd taken over the family's struggling office-cleaning business from his ailing father, didn't make it in time, and lottery officials rejected the claim.
In 1997, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted to award Jackson the prize, but the state senate refused to go along. Up until 2004, Jackson was still making annual attempts to convince the legislature otherwise, and still losing.
5) And some other Jackson: Its biggest "winner"
Andrew Jackson "Jack" Whittaker was already wealthy when he won the multi-state Powerball lottery in December 2002.
A millionaire contractor from West Virginia, Whittaker became the biggest single lottery winner in history after snagging a $314.9 million jackpot. But the dough seemed to carry more curses than the Hope Diamond.
When Jack decided to collect his winnings in a $170.5 million lump sum, rather than payments over 20 years, it wasn't the only lump coming his way. Whittaker was robbed three times, once of more than $500,000 at a strip club. He was also sued for assault, arrested multiple times for drunk driving, and even booked for getting into a bar fight. E-mail to a friend
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