History Of The New York State Lottery

History Of The New York State Lottery

Feature Photo: Nicole Glass Photography / Shutterstock.com

The history of the New York State Lottery began on November 8, 1966, when sixty percent of the voters favored the idea of a state-run lottery system. They approved an amendment that specified all profit from the lottery was to be used to fund educational programs in the state. New York became the second state in the U.S. to have its own lottery system. The first was in New Hampshire in 1964. Since then, the New York State Lottery has introduced several games from raffle draws to scratchcard tickets, as well as video lottery terminals (VLTs).

Making History

After New Yorkers voted in favor of a referendum introducing the New York State Lottery, the New York Legislature installed a Division of the Lottery and a Lottery Commission. Since 1967, these entities have been answering to the Department of Taxation and Finance. The Division of the Lottery’s administrative direction is still dictated by the New York State Lottery for Education Law.

When New York issued its first lottery draw in 1967, it used “Your Chance of a Lifetime to Help Education” as its slogan. It was the original intent to strictly use the lottery funds to benefit the educational programs within the state of New York. This was accomplished through a practice known as parimutuel betting. Still used today, this is a system that sets a certain percentage aside to ensure the state’s education department benefits from these monetary transactions.

Through the practice of parimutuel betting, all bets of a specific type are pooled together. In the process, taxes and a house take are deducted before the payoff odds are determined by sharing the pool among all winning bets. Parimutuel systems are used when it comes to betting on some lottery games, as well as various racing and sporting events. This, as well as fixed odds betting, is still used today under the watchful eye of the New York State Gaming Commission. The New York Lottery and the New York State Gaming Commission are headquartered in Schenectady, New York.

Drawing Confusion

The finalization procedures for the state’s first lottery draw took place in April 1967. It was supposed to be a two-tier setup that had the top prize valued at $100,000. The second prize was $50,000 and was followed by a $35,000 third prize, a $10,000 fourth prize, and fifteen prizes of $5,000 each. These prizes were clustered into the first tier. The second tier had winners take home anywhere between $150 to $1,000 each.

In order to avoid paying the ten percent federal wagering tax, the New York State Lottery opted to use a glass bowl system to determine who’d win the tier-one grand prizes. It was a somewhat complicated lottery format that was explained in a Post-Standard article that was published on April 20, 1967.

The first draw made by the New York State Lottery took place at 10:22 A.M. on July 20, 1967. State Tax Commissioner Joseph H. Murphy did the honors, drawing several raffle tickets from a drum. The first winner was a truck driver from Massachusetts, Charles M. Huckins. The first New Yorker to win was Susano F. Gonzales from Ossining. They were among the 1,547 winning players who shared a prize pool worth $1.8 million. This was a process that offered individual prizes to new winners each week. Because the draws were done by hand, it took more than a day to have all of the winning tickets drawn.

All of these draws took place after horseracing events took place. It was a complicated procedure that had many winners not realize they won anything until they had to be reached by family, friends, colleagues, and even the authorities. This is what happened to a winner named Joseph Chiarmonte. A police officer pulled him over in front of a crowd who was expecting to see the man get arrested for something. Instead, the officer was a friend of Chiarmonte’s who congratulated him for his lottery win. Even though winners were declared in the Post-Standard, people like Chiarmonte never bothered to read the paper.

Winners & Losers

On August 21, 1967, a five-year-old from Long Island became a $100,000 prizewinner. It was a lottery ticket given to the little girl by her grandfather. By the time federal and state takes took their share, she was able to take $35,310 home. This was later followed by a March 1968 jackpot win of $250,000 by a plumber from Saratoga Springs named Michael Pasek. This first “super prize” draw took place at Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum and it was the largest lottery jackpot New York offered at the time. The prize paid him ten annuity payments of $25,000, minus taxes.

Starting in May 1975, the New York Lottery introduced “Pick It,” a ticket that featured a random three-digit number. Much like New York’s modern-day Numbers game, players holding a winning ticket would have their numbers match the line as a straight, box, pair, or combination. Players could bet as little as fifty cents per ticket or as much as five dollars. Within the first two months Pick It was played, over four million dollars in prize money was won.

On July 24, 1975, on WABC-TV, the New York State Lottery had its first televised broadcast. It was an experiment that didn’t go as well as hoped. Instead of the projected fifty percent of homes tuning in to watch a ticket drawn, only nineteen percent of them did. This was soon followed by a scandal involving New York Governor Hugh Carey. He was suspended for nine months from office from 1975 until 1976 after it was discovered that tickets were being awarded as winners. This resulted in the dismissal of Jerry Bruno as the New York State Lottery’s director, as well as the staff roster of the Lottery Commission.

Let’s Try Again

It wouldn’t be until September 1976 that the suspension against New York’s lottery games was lifted. This marked the beginning of the New York State Lottery selling its first collection of instant scratch-and-win tickets. For a dollar, players tried their luck to find three identical cash numbers and win the matching prize amount. Each jackpot winner won five thousand dollars, plus an entry to win a thousand dollars per week for life. These tickets also featured a letter on it. If a player had enough tickets to spell “New York,” they won a $2,500 prize that could be spent at a grocery store of their choice.

In November 1978, the New York Lotto draw made its television debut on WNEW-TV. The draw required players to have all five of the numbers on their ticket match the five numbers that were drawn on the air. They also needed to match the supplementary number. Shortly after making a second attempt to win an audience to watch draws on television, a new numbers-style game was created where players had to choose their own three-digit number between 000 and 999. Winners able to do this won five hundred dollars. However, an illegal version of this game also became popular in New York, despite the legislators’ attempt to curb illegal gambling practices.

In 1986, another scandal rocked the New York State Lottery after it was discovered state employees manipulated its Instant Lottery mail-in tickets from the lottery office’s mail room in Albany. Over forty thousand dollars worth of winnings were sent to family and friends over a two-year period before this group was caught. This scandal prompted the lottery director at the time, John D. Quinn, to make important changes that included winners having to sign their tickets before verifying them.

New York Lotto’s Legacy

Since 1978, every Wednesday and Saturday, the New York Lotto has been plucking six numbers in a game that costs players a dollar. Those six numbers start as low as one and reach as high as fifty-nine. After these are drawn, a bonus ball is drawn as a second opportunity for players to win a prize. Should three of the six numbers drawn match what’s on a player’s ticket, they earn a dollar. Winners having four or five of their numbers drawn share their earnings from a parimutuel prize pool.

Starting in February 1985, additional changes to Lotto included a bigger maximum jackpot to fifty million dollars, along with a larger pool of numbers for players to choose from. Instead of forty-four numbers, it was now forty-eight. If a player had all six numbers drawn, they won. There was also an extra draw where players had to match all six numbers from a pool of forty. The top prizes for this particular draw ranged between $200,000 and $300,000.

In August 1985, Lotto witnessed an all-time high of ticket sales after New Yorkers learned the jackpot was estimated at forty-one million dollars. On Wednesday, August 21, 1985, three lucky ticket holders each won $13.7 million. At the time, it was the largest lottery prize awarded in North America.

On January 26, 1991, the New York State Lottery held a Super Lotto that witnessed nine ticket holders split the jackpot prize of ninety million dollars. There was supposed to be a previous Lotto draw scheduled to take place three days earlier but was canceled in order to boost Super Lotto’s jackpot. The winning tickets were sold in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Rockland County, Suffolk County, and Yonkers.

Lotto’s Roller Coaster Ride

Going into the late 1990s, Lotto’s starting jackpot rose as high as four million dollars. Over time, Lotto’s sales witnessed a decline since the introduction of Mega Millions and Powerball. In an effort to heighten the popularity of Lotto, the New York State Lottery released an advertising campaign in October 2001 that focused on fun and community. It worked as “If I Had a Million Dollars” by the Barenaked Ladies was performed as a jingle while off-key New Yorkers sang the lyrics before they were featured in radio and television ads. In some cases, there were ads featuring New Yorkers sharing what they would do with the money if they won Lotto’s million-dollar jackpot. This was an ad campaign that continued until 2003.

On June 29, 2007, a maintenance worker named Degli Martinez turned out to be the lucky ticket holder of a draw valued at sixty-five million dollars. He purchased this, along with many other tickets at a lottery retailer in Sunnyside. As fate had it, Martinez lost the winning ticket but still had the receipt given to him by the lottery retailer. This served as the man’s confirmation that he had indeed bought the winning ticket. This unusual twist of fate had the New York State Lottery allow the one-year claim period to pass before Martinez was able to cash in on his winnings. This was to ensure nobody else came forward to claim the prize. When he was finally able to bank the money, Martinez chose to take the lump sum which came to slightly over twenty-one million dollars after taxes.

In 2019, Lotto’s minimum rollover jackpot was reduced to $100,000 as its sales were no longer what they used to be. However, New York Lotto still features jackpots that soar into at least a few million, and it’s still popular enough to have New Yorkers invest in what they hope will be a winning ticket for them.

In-House Daily Draws

Today, the New York State Lottery has in-house draw games and multi-jurisdictional games. The daily in-draw games include Quick Draw, Money Dots, Numbers, Win-4, Take 5, and Pick 10. The most popular among them is Win-4 with nearly one billion dollars worth of tickets sold so far. Numbers comes a close second with approximately $900 million in overall ticket sales. As of November 2, 2020, all of these in-state daily drawings have been scheduled to fit the daily routines of players and retailers to make it easier for these games to be purchased between their draw times.

Quick Draw

On September 2, 1995, the New York State Lottery introduced Quick Draw. If you know a thing or two about Keno, you’ll observe this game is similar to its format. Players choose from one through ten numbers before submitting a ticket for one dollar. Every four minutes within a twenty-four hour period, a new Quick Draw game is drawn that will feature twenty numbers randomly picked by a computer between one and eighty. Accessing Quick Draw at drinking establishments requires the player to be at least twenty-one years of age. At lottery terminals and liquor stores, the minimum age is eighteen.

At first, Quick Draw met with harsh criticism as a lottery game that had too much in common with the Keno casino game. Four years after it was introduced to the public, this game was temporarily shut down after a law that allowed it to pass expired. Despite the political argument over the state’s budget, Quick Draw was put back into circulation as a lottery game three months later. Today, Quick Draw is among the most popular tickets sold in New York with nearly eight hundred million dollars worth of tickets sold so far. This is nearly double the amount of money it has earned compared to the multi-jurisdictional favorite, Powerball.

Numbers, Win-4, & Take 5

Twice a day, Numbers issues a game that chooses three numbers between zero and nine. The minimum betting wager for this in-house lotto game is fifty cents. It costs more to exercise combination wages. Similar to Numbers, Win-4 is also drawn twice a day but with four numbers instead of three. The minimum wager for this game is also fifty cents when not factoring in combination wagers.

There’s also Take 5 which also runs much like Numbers and Win-4 with its twice-a-day draw routine. This has been the case since July 26, 2021. In 1992, this game picked up where Cash 40 left off. The first draw took place on Friday, January 18th. Each Take 5 game costs a dollar and there are five numbers drawn between one and thirty-nine.

The way this game works is if the ticket holder has all five numbers drawn, they win the grand prize. However, this is a roll-down system with four-number and three-number combinations also eligible to earn cash prizes. As for players having two numbers that were drawn, they win a free ticket to try again. Take 5 also has a bonus ball, offering eight prize levels for players to win anything from a free play to a decent cash prize.

Pick 10

Every night, Pick 10 draws twenty numbers that range between one and eighty. Players bet on ten numbers for a game that costs one dollar. Should players match ten of the numbers, they’ve won a $500,000 cash prize. Should all twenty numbers picked be drawn, the grand prize is $5,000,000. Players can bet on Pick 10 wherever lottery draw games are sold.

The start of Pick 10 began in January 1987 as Win 10. During this time, players had to choose from three to ten numbers between one and eighty with the hope of matching as many of them as possible with the twenty winning numbers drawn. It cost a dollar to enter and the prizes depended entirely on how many players participated. The top prize was $200,000 for the player who was able to pick and match all ten.

From Millennial Millions to Mega Millions

Before Mega Millions, the New York State Lottery had Millennium Millions sold at two dollars per game. The first draw for this game took place on December 31, 1999. From the Bronx, a kitchen cook named Johnnie Ely won the state’s first-ever $100 million cash prize. Instead of annuity payments, he opted to take the lump sum of forty-four million dollars, before taxes. This worked out to be twenty-seven million dollars but it was enough for the sixty-six-year-old man and his wife to retire in comfort from their jobs.

Somewhat styled like Mega Millions, players chose five numbers from a pool of fifty numbers, then a sixth from a pool of twenty-five numbers. After Ely’s win, Millennium Millions held a second series that resulted in three draws in 2000 before a winner was able to claim its jackpot. In a way, this lottery was confusing because it didn’t function as a normal jackpot game. In 2002, Millennium Millions was ditched in favor of Mega Millions. The first set of tickets went on sale in New York on Wednesday, May 15, 2002. The first draw was held on Friday, May 17th.

Every Tuesday and Friday, Mega Millions draws five balls that are numbered anywhere between one and seventy. This is followed by a sixth ball, a gold-colored “Mega Ball” that’s numbered anywhere between one and twenty-five. For two dollars, players have the opportunity to cash in on a minimum jackpot of forty million dollars. On November 19, 2004, New York’s Juan Rodriguez became the biggest jackpot winner when his ticket scored him a wonderfully timed $149 million rescue from financial hardship. At the time, he had less than a dollar in his bank account and was deep in debt which had him file for bankruptcy one month before winning his Mega Millions. The lump sum payment Rodriguez took came to eighty-eight million dollars.

Ten years later, Harold Diamond from Sullivan County’s Wurtsboro won a $326 million Mega Millions jackpot, beating Rodiriguez’s record as the New York State’s biggest winner at the time. He was an eighty-year-old retiree who used to serve as an elementary school principal. The lump sum he claimed before taxes came to $197.4 million.

On April 14, 2023, Diamond’s record as New York’s biggest Mega Millions jackpot winner was broken with a $476 million cash prize. The ticket was sold from a liquor store in Ozone Park, Queens, and the lucky winner opted to take home the lump sum of $256.9 million instead of annuity payments. A week later, another New Yorker won a Mega Millions jackpot, this time twenty million dollars. It was the first time two consecutive jackpot winners from the same state won consecutive draws.

Close Call

Just two days before his Mega Millions lottery ticket was due to expire in May 2017, Jimmy Smith of East Orange, New Jersey claimed his jackpot after rummaging through several lottery tickets he previously stuffed in an old shirt. It didn’t dawn on him to check these tickets after watching a televised news report about the lottery’s unclaimed twenty-four million dollar jackpot winner had yet to come forward. Upon realizing it was he who had the ticket, Smith had his ticket validated before his name was publicly announced that he was the lucky ticket holder.

From Sweet Million to Cash4Life

From 2009 until 2014, Sweet Million was a lottery that was held every Monday and Thursday night. For a dollar, players chose six numbers from one to forty. Three numbers won them three dollars. Four numbers won them forty dollars. Five numbers granted players a five hundred dollar cash prize. The winning jackpot for all six numbers drawn was one million dollars. However, the introduction of Sweet Millions came at the same time Mega Millions and Powerball reached an agreement to have both of their respective games sold together. Their first set of tickets started to sell on January 31, 2010.

Due to poor sales, Sweet Million made its final draw on June 12, 2014. As of June 13, 2014, Cash4Life replaced the Sweet Million in New York as a new multi-jurisdictional lottery draw. On Livestream, it made its first on-air live draw at 9 P.M. Eastern Time on June 16th, 2014. Originally, this was a Monday and Thursday evening event before becoming a nightly one. For two dollars, players chose five of the sixty numbers in the game card’s “main field” and one of four green “Cash Ball” numbers in the “second field.” The “4” in this game’s name reflects the second set of numbers for players to choose.

Cash4Life’s top prize offers a thousand-dollar allowance per day for life. This is followed by the second prize of a thousand dollars per week for life. Winners of these prizes also have the opportunity to collect a lump sum of either seven million dollars as the top prize or one million dollars as the second prize.

VLTs & New York State Gaming Commission

Starting in January 2004, video lottery terminals (VLTs) began to make their mark for the first time in New York at the Saratoga Raceway. Now known as the Saratoga Casino Hotel, these electronic terminals offered players approximately eighty games to choose from as a form of gambling entertainment. This eventually led to the New York State Lottery and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to team up and become the New York State Gaming Commission as of February 1, 2013.

Today, there are nine parimutuel video lottery terminal facilities in operation within the state of New York. By law, these VLTs are required to have a ninety-two percent payout to their players while the remaining eight percent goes to the house and Education Aid.

New York State Lottery’s Legacy

Since 1967, the New York State Lottery has maintained its dedication to funding the state’s educational system while at the same time giving state citizens an opportunity to take home sizeable cash prizes. As of 2023, at least sixty-four billion dollars have been funneled to schools that have been teaching children from kindergarten to grade twelve. Between traditional lottery tickets, scratch and wins, and video gaming lotteries, the New York State Gaming Commission has provided a detailed money trail for the interested public to access. This way, gamblers know where their money is going in an effort to be as transparent as possible and avoid any further scandals

In September 1991, the New York State Lottery introduced a scratch-style lottery game called “Invest in Kids.” Proceeds from these scratch-and-win tickets went to funding after-school programs for children, as well as library books and guidance counseling. Players were eligible to win as much as $25,000. This was the first time the New York State Lottery branched out to focus on children’s communities that extended beyond educational resources.

The legacy of the New York State Lottery also included a few duds that failed to catch on, as well as a few that were upgraded. One game that stood out as a failure was Monopoly Millionaires’ Club. On October 19, 2014, it launched as a draw every Friday in twenty-two states across the U.S., including New York. This lottery drew its final set of winning numbers on December 26, 2014, due to poor sales. During the spring of 2015, Monopoly Millionaires’ Club returned as a five-dollar scratchcard. This led to a televised game show produced for the game’s players who won a trip to Las Vegas. While there, winning players appeared on the Monopoly Millionaires’ Club with its host, Billy Gardell.

Today, the New York State Lottery’s biggest sellers have been scratch-and-win tickets by far with over four billion dollars worth in sales. Among the multi-jurisdictional lottery games, Powerball sits on top as the most popular with over four hundred million dollars worth of tickets sold so far. Altogether, the funds raised on behalf of Education Aid have witnessed over 650 school districts benefit from the monetary contributions the people of New York have donated in their quest to become the state’s next jackpot winner.

History Of The New York State Lottery article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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