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New York Lottery Celebrates 50th Anniversary

It’s been a year for celebrating anniversaries and the latest to do so is the New York State Lottery. This month marks the 50th anniversary of the lottery and over the years it has produced a lengthy string of big winners and raised billions of dollars for charity.

Last month Canada’s Lotto 6/49 draw celebrated its 35th anniversary. That followed on the heels of the 25th anniversary of the Powerball draw. It was on Election Day in 1966 that New Yorkers voted in favour of a constitutional amendment that authorized a government-run lottery. The New York Lottery draw would also aid and support education in the state.

Up to that time, the only other state lottery in the USA was in New Hampshire two years previously. Lottery players must have become impatient as it wasn’t until April of the following year that plans were finalized for the first draw. $1 tickets began to be sold at hotels, motels, banks, and Western Union offices on June 1, 1967. The first drawing took place on July 21.

The first draw saw 240 winners for each $1m in tickets sold with two tiers of prizes. The top prize in the “Grand Prize Tier,” was $100,000 and the “Consolation Tier,” winners could earn between $1,000 and $150.

The draw was a bit different from what we are used to nowadays. In order to avoid a 10 percent federal wagering tax, a horsebowl system was used. Numbers were drawn from a revolving glass drum but they related to the horses in a chosen race that took place the previous week. The first New York Lottery winners were announced on July 26, 1967 but the draw began on the 20th. The winning horse in the selected race that players had to match was Wiggin’s Fork. has reported on many big winners in the lottery, not all of them instantly claiming their prizes. Two years ago, Richard Loveless was a $42.5m New York Lottery jackpot winner. Earlier this year we told you of an anonymous New Yorker who claimed his $24.1m New York Lottery jackpot just two days before it was due to expire. There’s been the occasional court case too, including Linza Ford who was in dispute with her mother over a $1m New York Lottery win.

The New York Lottery is now the nation’s largest and most profitable, with more than $83 billion paid out to winners and more than $61 billion that has been raised to support education.

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