There Really Was a “Get Out of Jail Free” Card

Although the English probably first experimented with raffles and similar games of chance, the first recorded official lottery was chartered by Queen Elizabeth I in the year 1566. The 400,000 tickets issued cost £0.50 each (60¢), which was roughly three weeks wages for ordinary citizens. The grand prize was worth roughly £5,000 ($6,005.23). The lottery was designed to raise money for public works, including the rebuilding of ports and new ships for the royal fleet. Each ticket holder won a prize, and the total value of the prizes equaled the money raised. Additionally, each participant was granted immunity from one arrest, “so long as the crime wasn’t piracy, murder, felonies, or treason.”