Flashback: Winners are drawn in New York state’s first lottery in 1967
The New York State Lottery is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
On Election Day in 1966, New Yorkers voted in favor to approve a constitutional amendment authorizing a government-run lottery, with its proceeds to be “applied exclusively to, or in aid or support of education. It was the second state lottery in the nation, following New Hampshire’s in 1964.
Syracuse University student Charles Holt, of Shokan, was one of six grand prize winners of New York’s State first lottery. He appeared on the front page of the July 27, 1967 with his fiancee, Frances Ganci. He won $100,000.
Plans for the first lottery drawing were finalized in April 1967.
One dollar tickets would go on sale on June 1 at hotels, motels, banks and Western Union offices.
There would be 240 winners for each $1 million in tickets sold and there would be two tiers of prizes.
In the “Grand Prize Tier,” the top prize would be $100,000; second prize $50,000; third prize $35,000; fourth $10,000 and places five through 15 would receive $5,000. In the “Consolation Tier,” winners could earn between $1,000 and $150.
To avoid the 10 percent federal wagering tax, a compromise was struck to use a “horsebowl” system to decide who won the grand prizes. (Lotteries based on horse racing were exempt.)
The format was described in a Post-Standard article from April 20, 1967: “From the revolving glass drums winners will be picked, given post positions and then matched with winners of a race determined after the lucky tickets are drawn. The horse race will be run a week before the drawings, but will be chosen until after the winning tickets are drawn.”
The actual drawing was just as complicated.
On July 20 and 21, 1,547 tickets were drawn in Albany, placed into a “winner’s drum” and transported to New York City inside an armored car for the next drawing. Each one of these tickets had a shot at one of the six $100,000 prizes.
On July 24, 90 tickets were drawn and placed in the Grand Prize Tier, the rest in the Consolation Tier. The selected tickets were given a post position number, and, finally, a final drawing on July 26 would determine which horse race would be used to determine the final prize allocation.
Twenty tickets from the initial drawings were from Onondaga County residents.
Arthur O’Dell, 65, was drawn fourth overall.
The Post-Standard sent a reporter to speak with him at his job at Lipe-Rollway Corp.
“I’m a very lucky man,” he told the newspaper, adding he planned to use the money to travel to Florida with his roommate after he retired next year.
“I will tell you one thing,” he said. “I won’t spend it foolishly like I did when I was young.” (He would end up with $150 from the consolation tier.)
All the winners contacted by the Post-Standard expressed excitement, but mostly disbelief about winning.
“I just didn’t believe it,” said Lillian Shelley. “I’ve never won anything in my life.”
Eight-year-old Stacey Lyon, of Westcott Street, was described as “thrilled,” but did not quite understand the fuss when the ticket her great-grandmother bought for her was chosen.
Liverpool Attorney Anthony Vecchio thought his friends were pranking him when the Post-Standard called about taking his picture: “No one was more surprised than I when a guy showed up at 9 p.m. with a camera!”
Most surprised was Joseph Chiarmonte who was pulled over by a police officer on Warren Street. A small crowd gathered expecting to see him get a ticket, but instead saw the officer, who was friend of Chiarmonte’s, shake his hand for winning.
“It was the first I’d heard about it,” he said, “because I hadn’t even read the paper.”
None of these folks were drawn into the final round, but Edwin Shapero, 40, a salesman at Syracuse Rope and Twine, was selected.
“I have no idea what I’d do with the money, but we are going to share this,” he said.
All he needed was for the horse from post position 13 to win in the race drawn.
It didn’t. He won $5,000 after the fourth race at Aqueduct on July 19 was chosen. The winning horse was Wiggin’s Fork.
One of the six grand prize winners did have a Syracuse tie.
Charles Holt, 20, of Shokan, was a junior at Syracuse University when he won. His mother bought a ticket for each of her children.
He planned to use his winnings on his upcoming wedding and promised to help his parents.
“They’ll be taken care of. I remember who has been paying for my schooling,” he said.
According to an Associated Press story, the lottery is now the “nation’s largest and most profitable program of its kind.”
State officials say more than $83 billion have been paid out to winners and more than $61 billion has been raised to support education.
Flashback: Robert Congel announces plans for Oil City mall (vintage photos)
This feature is a part of CNY Nostalgia, a section on syracuse.com. Send your ideas and curiosities to Johnathan Croyle: Email | 315-427-3958.