Good summer reading: Fate’s Bookie

hicks2009Now when it’s summer vacation I spend much time outdoors fishing and boating. But in the recent days when it has been raining, I’ve read an interesting and entertaining book about gambling that I recommend to you all:

Fate’s Bookie: How the Lottery Shaped the World, by Gary Hicks (2009; The History Press).

The book is about the history of lotteries, from ancient times up to today, with a focus on England. Many remarkable stories of lotteries are told. Even you who have read much about the history of gambling will certainly find something new here. Examples of the topics covered are:

  • In antiquity, German youth were by the Romans said to have been so obsessed by dice gambling that some of them, when they had lost all their possessions, staked themselves as slaves for a period of time.
  • In the 1660th there was in England a lottery to help pay the ransoms of Britons enslaved by Barbary pirates in North Africa.
  • In the 1860th there was a Papal lottery in Rome. A crowd assembled in the Piazza Madonna when the winning numbers were announced, some people holding a crucifix in one hand and their lottery ticket in the other.
  • Although today considered a quite harmless form of gambling, lotteries have in the past caused much social harm among the poor who desperately hoped for a win.
  • Many examples are given of ruthless lottery scams, which show the need for the regulation of gambling.
  • Lotteries have in many societies and since antiquity been used for political and administrative decision making.

And there are many more interesting things to read in this book!

> The publisher’s presentation of the book


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