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Jersey lotteries


A ticket for a Jersey lottery in 1827, held by Jersey Archive. This was almost certainly for one of the draws held to finance the building of a public market at St Aubin

A number of years before the National Lottery was launched in the UK, Jersey ran its own public lottery, but although some way ahead of the rest of the British Isles, this was by no means the first public lottery to be held in Jersey

Earliest in the British Isles

Jersey's lottery was the earliest 20th century public lottery in the British Isles, beating Guernsey (1971) Ireland (1987) and the United Kingdom (1994). Jersey and Guernsey joined forces in 1975 under the banner of the Channel Islands Lottery.

Jersey's share of the profits from the lottery were initially used to finance the transformation of Fort Regent into a sports and entertainment complex. On the completion of that project, the States of Jersey agreed that the Jersey part of the profits from the Channel Islands Lottery should be applied to charitable purposes, through the Association of Jersey Charities.

A scratchcard instant game was introduced to revitalise the traditional draw in 1997.

On 29 June 2012 a new summer draw was launched with a million £2 lottery tickets going on sale. The main prize, had all tickets been sold, would have been £1 million, with a further £300,000 in smaller prizes. However ticket sales were much lower than anticipated, and the main prize was only £150,000, with £300,000 in smaller prizes. The summer lottery was cancelled in the following year.

Although National Lottery tickets are not sold in Jersey, many islanders have been able to obtain them through friends and family and the Channel Island lottery has been reduced to a single draw at Christmas.

Proposals for an early lottery

Earlier lotteries

The public lottery launched in Jersey in 1961 was by no means the island's earliest.

Public lotteries were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries as a means of raising money for specific projects, and an alternative to extra taxes.

In January 1750, with a harbour desperately needed at St Helier, as well as extra shelter at the busier commercial port at St Aubin, the States were asked to authorise a lottery to raise funds for the projects. On 11 January 1750 the States passed an Acte for the raising of a Public Lottery to pay for more "work to be done on the Chaussee de St Helier" and George II gave £200 also.

In 1783, when money had to be found to build guard houses and arsenals to strengthen the island's defences following the Battle of Jersey the States once again decided to hold a lottery. Part of the funds raised went towards improvements to defences at Greve de Lecq.

Six years later, with the threat of invasion even greater after the French Revolution another lottery was ordered. The draw was held in the vestibule of the old court house. Two boys in blue with red sashes drew the numbers out of the wheels. Two Jurats in their red robes registered the winning numbers. The Gazette of 24 January 1789 described the ceremony in detail and listed the winning numbers.

The intention was to hold the draw annually to provide a steady flow of money without the need to resort to taxation, but as the novelty wore off, ticket sales began to fall. Members of the Chamber of Commerce were called on in 1792 to sell sets of 50 tickets each. The Chamber agreed to be responsible for the sale of 6,000 tickets on the condition that half of the profit arising from the lottery would be 'applied towards continuing the new work at the Harbours of St Helier and St Aubin'. The following year a large number of tickets were not sold, and in 1794 so few were bought that the draw was cancelled.

One of those involved with the staging of the lotteries was Clement Hemery, who had raised the alarm when the French invaded in 1781. On 16 June 1789 he was chosen as one of the officers of the Lottery. On 6 December 1792 he was again appointed one of the lottery commissioners, and for a third time on 14 December 1793.

Later draws

When a programme of road-building was ordered by the Lieut-Governor, General Sir George Don in 1806, bazaars and lotteries were held to support the work. The first prize in the St Aubin's Road lottery, out of the £72,000 proposed to be raised in this manner, reached the handsome sum of £12,000, though the name of the winner is unrecorded.

It can be imagined that, given the large sums involved in the currency of the day, the lotteries were aimed at wealthy landowners, not the farm workers who toiled in their fields.

In 1814 the draw of a lottery held to finance the paving of the Royal Square was postponed so that it did not interfere with the celebrations following a British victory in the Napoleonic Wars. Little did anyone know at the time that an even greater victory, at Waterloo, would be celebrated the following year.

St Aubin Market

On 10 August 1824 the States decided to erect a new market at St Aubin and to hold one or two lotteries to pay for it. The Markets Committee were authorized to organise these lotteries as they had had considerable experience in running some between 1792 and 1808. Eight Commissioners were named and they were most meticulous in following the procedure which had been formerly adopted regarding the numbering of the tickets etc.

2,500 tickets each of 24 livres (£1) were issued and the first prize was 6,000 livres (£250). But before the lottery could take place, the wheels in the lottery apparatus had become broken, and so it was necessary to have them repaired.

In order to make the lottery a success, the Commissioners hit upon the idea of arranging a spectacular procession:

"The draw, fixed for Monday 28 March 1825, will begin at 9 am, all the tickets (2,500) should be drawn that day, consequently all the Members of the States Committee should be in the Court House at 8.30 am to open the wheels. At 7 am the wheels will be placed on a superbly decorated carriage with four boys dressed in magnificent robes garlanded with coronets, etc. The procession will start from the Constable's home and proceed to the Royal Square going through the principal streets of the Town, preceded by a band playing Le Gros Prix de six mille francs. The carriage will arrive in the Square at 8 am and the wheels will be transferred to the Royal Court, placed in the vestibule, the band in the meanwhile playing God Save the King."

On 18 March 1826 it was reported to the States that the building was not completed and that more money was required. Two more lotteries were ordered to be organised in 1826, followed by another two before the project was complete.

Bank collapse lottery refused

In 1873, Bailiff Jean Hammond's popularity waned when he refused to allow a public lottery to take place towards the relief fund for the victims of the collapse of the Mercantile Bank. He believed that the prospect of selling half a million tickets in England and France was remote. So many people lost money in the bank's collapse that Deputy Vickery of Saint Helier was prompted to propose to the States that a £300,000 lottery should be held, with prizes amounting to £65,000. On 27 May 1873 the proposition was carried by 28 votes to 5, but Bailiff Hammond promptly expressed his dissent to the resolution as lotteries were then illegal. The matter then remained in suspense while it was referred to the Privy Council which, on 26 June, declared the resolution to be void.

Public lottery started in 1966

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