Paris News

Paris: The Intelligent Lottery

In a nation known for exceptional social services, one office often overlooked focuses on supporting lottery winners. Tasked with preventing the chaos that can come with sudden wealth, the FDJ Group (Groupe FDJ) is a crucial part of France’s national lottery system’s Commitment and Responsible Gaming Group. Led by Isabelle Césari, the group is dedicated to helping individuals transition smoothly to their new lives after hitting the jackpot, even earning Césari a spot as a TED talk speaker on “How to Support Lottery Winners”, highlighting their focus on shifting winners from mere pleasure to lasting happiness. For a more in-depth exploration of the French lottery system, here’s a engaging podcast link.
Although today the French lottery enriches everyday individuals and contributes to charitable causes, it wasn’t always intended for these purposes. Historically, state-sponsored lotteries aimed to provide income for the Crown but were often unreliable due to attempts to secure winnings for the state. These lotteries functioned like raffles, with tickets sold for years until profits were guaranteed through ticket sales. However, lacking an understanding of probability laws, mistakes were inevitable.
One notable mishap turned into a literary boon and a near calamity for the French monarchy. In 1728, during a dinner conversation, Voltaire and scientist Charles Marie de la Condamine exposed a flaw in the French lottery. This flaw allowed select ticket holders to manipulate the system and win consistently. Voltaire, La Condamine, and associates orchestrated a ticket-buying scheme, winning millions. Although the government cried fraud, the courts upheld their actions as legitimate within the lottery’s existing rules. The French government closed the lottery before Voltaire and his group could disrupt the country’s financial stability.
As a result of this incident, the French Lottery lay dormant for three decades, with the government resorting to minimal taxes. Recommendations to revive the lottery were dismissed to avoid further losses. However, in 1757, an escaped prisoner proposed a lucrative lottery plan to Joseph de Pâris-Duverney, a seasoned financier. Pâris-Duverney’s idea revitalized the lottery, emphasizing frequent drawings, guaranteed large winnings, and state oversight.
This audacious proposal marked a turning point in history, as the lottery’s rebirth owed much to the daring confidence and understanding of probability put forth by Giacomo Casanova, known for his daring escapades. Casanova advocated for state-controlled lotteries, underscoring the importance of risk in ensuring success.
Casanova’s legacy not only echoes through stories of his romantic conquests but also in the enduring impact of the lottery on French cultural heritage. France’s annual “Loto Du Patrimoine” cultural heritage lottery, stemming from Casanova’s ideas, contributes to restoring significant cultural sites, testament to the resilience of fortune and the enduring legacy of a man whose name symbolizes amorous pursuits.

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