The Golden Anniversary of the establishment of the New Jersey Lottery is being recognized in 2020.
In 1969, the lottery was on the General Election ballot and voter approval of the statewide lottery was 81.5 percent. At the time, New Jersey was only the third state to pass a legal lottery, the other states being New Hampshire and New York. The New Jersey lottery began with a simple weekly drawing. The first ticket was sold to Governor William Cahill on Dec. 16, 1970.
The original hope of the lottery was to generate a profit of $12 million annually to help support educational institutions. Last year, the New Jersey Lottery generated over $1 billion now contributing the revenue to retirement benefits of community servants like teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees. Amazingly, since the lottery’s inception in 1970 the state has collected over $28 billion in revenue for the state and $42 billion for player winners.
Historically, the United States has had a love-hate relationship with lotteries. There were lotteries in the 13 colonies. In 1823, Congress approved a lottery using the revenue to beautify Washington, DC. During the later 1800s, scandals and corruption in lotteries created problems culminating with President Harrison banning all lotteries in 1894. Humorously, it seems this ban in still on the books, but obviously not enforced.
To acknowledge the 50th anniversary, the New Jersey Lottery has some new surprises up their sleeves. Lottery vending machines will now be touch screens. Pick 3 will offer players $40,000 in additional cash prizes. New scratch-offs will hit the stores in February and March and Lottery VIP members will benefit with 50-50-50 specials.
In 2018, Vernon resident Richard Wahl won the largest pay out in NJ Lottery history playing Mega Millions as he won his mega millions, $533 to be exact. Highland Lakes Vietnam veteran Wayne O’Keefe cashed in his Millionaires Club lottery ticket for $21 million at the Highland Lakes General Store where he purchased the ticket in 2014.
Maybe, the New Jersey Lottery slogan is fitting, “Anything can happen in Jersey.”