Back to Results

Advice on Anti-Lottery Legislation

Advice on Anti-Lottery Legislation/tiles/non-collection/c/c_085imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Advice on Anti-Lottery Legislation/tiles/non-collection/c/c_085imgtile2.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Advice on Anti-Lottery Legislation/tiles/non-collection/c/c_085imgtile3.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


A member of the Anti-Lottery League of New Orleans, W. Van Benthuysen wrote to Post Office and Post Roads Committee Chairman Henry H. Bingham with his input on legislation before the committee to strengthen a ban on lottery material from the mail.

Van Benthuysen objected to the lottery on moral grounds. He hoped a new law would finally put an end to the Louisiana State Lottery Company, which had a highly successful—and lucrative—business model of advertising and selling tickets nationwide through the mail. It had proven adept at dodging previous legislative attempts to destroy its distribution model. Despite an existing prohibition on the mailing of lottery materials, as many as 50,000 pieces of the company’s mail were processed through Washington, DC, on a monthly basis.

“To kill the vice we must have more [regulation] and leave no loophole for the [Company] to crawl through. I know that you will realize the importance of makig [sic] the contemplated legislation effective for if it turns out other-wise the effect will be very bad,” Van Benthuysen urged the committee. Although a statute was in place, the Post Office Department’s principle of the “sanctity of the seal,” that a piece of mail remains private and secure from sender to recipient, and other limitations made it difficult to apply real teeth to legislation that affected what could be sent through the postal system.

During the 51st Congress, the Committee on Post Office and Post Roads considered several bills related to banning lottery material from the mail and offered H.R. 11569 as a substitute bill. H.R. 11569 passed the House on August 16, 1890, and became law on September 19, 1890. The new law expanded the definition of prohibited lottery material and empowered postal authorities to refuse delivery of suspected lottery-related mailings. The Louisiana State Lottery Company closed within a few years.

Related Subjects