NY Lottery History
The New York State Lottery was formed in 1966, and since then it has introduced numerous games, from traditional raffle and draw games to scratch-off tickets and video terminals designed for instant play and quick wins. You can read all about the history of the New York Lottery below, from its inception over 50 years ago to today.
- November 1966
- July 1967
- August 1967
- March 1968
- May 1975
- July 1975
- October 1975
- September 1976
- November 1978
- April 1980
- February 1985
- August 1985
- July 1986
- January 1987
- January 1991
- September 1991
- January 1992
- September 1995
- March 1999
- December 1999
- May 2002
- January 2004
- November 2004
- September 2009
- January 2010
- February 2013
- June 2014
- November 2014
- October 2017
New Yorkers voted for a constitutional amendment calling for the implementation of a state-run lottery. Over 60% voted in favour of the amendment, which specified that all profits from the lottery must be used to fund education in the state.
The first-ever New York State Lottery was drawn by State Tax Commissioner Joseph H. Murphy at 10:22am EST on July 20, 1967. It took the format of a raffle, with numerous winning tickets drawn from a drum. The first one belonged to Charles M. Huckins, a 41-year-old truck driver from Leominster, Massachusetts. The first New Yorker to win a prize was Susano F. Gonzalez of Ossining. They shared a prize pool of $1.8 million with 1,545 other players, with the individual prize amounts for each winner determined in a further draw the following week. Each winning ticket was drawn by hand, so it took more than a day to draw them all.
On August 21, 1967, a 5-year-old girl from Long Island won $100,000 on a lottery ticket bought for her by her grandfather. She was the only grand prize winner from that draw and took home $35,310 after Federal and state taxes were deducted.
The first ever ‘superprize’ draw took place, offering a jackpot of $250,000, the largest single lottery prize ever offered in New York at the time. The draw took place at Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum (since renamed the Hulu Theater) and the jackpot was won by Michael Pasek, a former plumber from a small hamlet near Saratoga Springs. The prize took the form of 10 annuity payments of $25,000 before taxes.
The state’s first Numbers-type game went on sale. In ‘Pick It’, players were given a ticket with a random three-digit number. Like the modern Numbers game, players could win by matching their three digits with the winning line in various ways: straight, box, pair, or combination. Players could choose to wager from $0.50 to $5, and over $4.1 million in prize money was awarded in the first two months that the game was active.
The New York State Lottery was broadcast on television for the first time. The draw, which took place on July 24, was aired on WABC-TV and was used as an experiment to test whether a weekly televised lottery draw was worth broadcasting. Researchers at the station had expected 50 percent of homes in the area to tune in, but in the end that figure only reached 19 percent.
Governor Hugh Carey suspended operations of the NY State Lottery after concerns arose that a programming error caused hundreds of duplicate tickets to be printed. Auditors later found discrepancies in previous draws, which led to the lottery’s collapse and the dismissal of Lottery Director Jerry Bruno and the entire staff of the Lottery Commission.
The first instant lottery was launched in New York. It was the first lottery game to go on sale in the state since operations were suspended the previous year. Each scratch-off ticket cost $1 and players had to match three identical cash numbers to win a prize. Jackpot winners were awarded $5,000 and were entered into a draw to win a further $1,000 a week for life. Furthermore, each ticket featured a letter and if a player found enough tickets to spell out the words ‘New York’, they won $2,500 worth of groceries from a market of their choice.
The first New York Lotto draw was held and was aired on WNEW-TV. The first prize was $250,000 and to win it players had to match five of the main numbers as well as a supplementary number. The winning line in the first draw was 1, 4, 15, 23, 26, and 37, with the supplementary number 39.
In an attempt to curb illegal gambling, legislators approved a new numbers game, in which players had to correctly choose a three-digit number between 000 and 999. The top prize for doing so was $500. An illegal version of the game was popular at the time among New York residents and proved lucrative for the game’s operators.
Changes to Lotto were announced, including a bigger maximum jackpot of $50 million and a change to the number of balls that players had to choose from. Under the new rules, players had to match six numbers from a pool of 48, rather than the existing 44. An extra draw, in which players had to match six numbers from 40, was also introduced, offering top prizes of between $200,000 and $300,000.
Ticket sales in New York soared as the Lotto jackpot reached $41 million. Three ticket holders split the prize to each win $13.7 million in the draw on Wednesday August 21, 1985. It was the largest lottery prize ever awarded in North America at the time.
New York and 10 other states, as well as the District of Columbia, began discussing the possibility of starting a multi-jurisdictional lottery that offered jackpots of up to $100 million. The target start date for the new game was January 1, 1987. Five states and the District of Columbia went on to launch Lotto America in 1987, but New York was not one of the participants.
Win 10, which went on to be renamed Pick 10, was played for the first time. In it, players had to choose from three to ten numbers between 1 and 80 and match as many of them as possible with the 20 winning numbers drawn. The game cost $1 to enter and prizes depended on how many numbers players chose to try and match, with a top prize of $200,000 on offer to anyone who picked and matched ten.
The New York State Lottery held a ‘Super Lotto’, which offered a jackpot of $90 million. The draw took place on Saturday January 26, with nine ticket holders splitting the top prize. The previous Lotto draw, scheduled to take place three days earlier, was cancelled in order to boost the jackpot in the Super Lotto. The nine winning tickets were sold in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Yonkers, Rockland County, and Suffolk County.
A new scratch-off game designed to raise money for children was introduced. Proceeds from sales of the game, which was called ‘Invest in Kids’, went towards funding after-school recreation programs, library books and guidance counselling for children. Players could win up to $25,000.
Take 5 was played for the first time in New York, replacing the outgoing Cash 40 game. Known then as Take Five, the game started on Friday January 18, with tickets costing $1. The format was similar to the version played today; players simply had to match their five chosen numbers with those drawn in the lottery. The estimated prize pool for the first draw was $200,000.
A keno-style game called Quick Draw was introduced, despite strong opposition from critics who claimed that it was a form of casino gambling masquerading as a lottery. The first game was played on September 2 1995, with draws taking place every four minutes between 10:00am and 3:00pm EST, and between 4:00pm and 12:00am. The game was made available in various locations throughout New York, including restaurants, bowling alleys and hardware stores.
Just four years after it was introduced, the law that enabled the introduction of Quick Draw expired in a governmental dispute over budgets, meaning that the game was taken off-sale. Its absence was short-lived, however, as Quick Draw was reintroduced just three months later.
Johnnie Ely from the Bronx became New York’s first-ever $100 million lottery winner when he took the top prize in the short-lived Millennium Millions game. Ely, who worked as a cook at the Java Shop restaurant in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, elected to take a cash lump sum worth over $44 million before taxes.
New York became the ninth member state of the recently-rebranded Mega Millions lottery, alongside Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Virginia, New Jersey, and Ohio. Tickets went on sale in New York on Wednesday May 15, 2002, for the first draw on Friday May 17.
The first video lottery terminals were installed at the Saratoga Raceway (now the Saratoga Casino Hotel). The electronic terminals offered around 80 different games.
Juan Rodriguez became New York’s biggest ever jackpot winner at the time, when he landed $149 million in the Mega Millions draw on November 19, 2004. The win couldn’t have arrived at a better time for Rodriguez. With just 78 cents in his checking account and thousands of dollars in debt, he had filed for bankruptcy just one month before hitting the jackpot. He took a lump sum payment of $88 million.
A new game called Sweet Million was introduced. Played twice a week, it offered five jackpot prizes of $1 million in each draw. The subsequent introduction of Powerball, however, contributed to poor ticket sales, and the game ran for only five years before it was replaced by the Cash4Life annuity lottery.
New York offered the Powerball lottery for the first time as part of a cross-sell expansion with Mega Millions, which allowed states to offer both games for the first time. The first Powerball jackpot that New Yorkers were eligible to win was worth $107 million. Tickets went on sale on Sunday January 31 and the first draw in which New York participated took place on Wednesday February 3.
The lottery’s operations were merged with New York State Racing and Wagering Board, resulting in the formation of the New York Gaming Commission, which oversees the lottery to this day. The merger of the two organizations was initially announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo as part of his 2012 state budget, and they were merged a year later on February 1, 2013.
Cash4Life was introduced as a replacement for the outgoing Sweet Million lottery. New York and New Jersey were the only two states to offer the game until Pennsylvania joined in April 2015.
Harold Diamond from Wurtsboro in Sullivan County won a $326 million Mega Millions jackpot, which remains the biggest-ever jackpot won in the state of New York. The 80-year-old retired elementary school principal opted to take a cash lump sum of $197.4 million before taxes.
A jackpot prize worth $24 million was claimed just two days before it was due to expire. Jimmy Smith, of East Orange, New Jersey, said it was one of several lottery tickets he had stuffed in an old shirt, and he only checked them after seeing a television news report. He came forward to claim the prize in May 2017, but he was only announced publicly as the winner after the New York Lottery had finished validating the win.