The Pennsylvania Lottery just turned 45 years old.

The milestone brought about a nostalgia-laden press release from the state’s lottery department. Drew Svitko, the lottery’s executive director, said the organization’s growth during the past four-and-a-half decades has been incredible.

“From humble beginnings, the Pennsylvania Lottery has grown to offer a wide variety of in-state and multi-state draw games, scratch-off instant games, and we recently introduced Fast Play games,” Svitko said in a press release.

The lottery generated more than $4 billion in sales across more than 9,200 retail locations in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Lottery launched with 50-cent tickets

When the lottery started in 1972, Pennsylvania casinos didn’t exist and neighboring New Jersey was an equally barren casino wasteland. Secretariat was one year away from locking down the Triple Crown.

Weekly drawings offered a $50,000 grand prize, and there were occasional drawings for $1 million, according to the press release.

The lottery’s first year was a successful one: $57.7 million in net revenue shattered projections of $30 million.

Three years later, the lottery hosted its first televised drawing and sold its first scratch-offs.

The next big milestone came in 1982, when the lottery introduced a lotto-style game: Pennsylvania Lotto.

According to the lottery’s “History” webpage, Pennsylvania Lotto ran for nearly six years and handed out million-dollar prizes to 400 people.

Seniors benefit from lottery contributions

A portion of the lottery’s proceeds go to five distinct state programs, all of which provide relief and support to the state’s seniors, the press release noted:

  • Property tax and rent rebates
  • Transportation
  • Care services
  • Prescription assistance
  • Local services provided through Area Agencies on Aging across the state

By 1987, the lottery had contributed more than $10 billion to state and local senior services. To date, these programs have received nearly $27 billion from the lottery.

A promotional video from the state lottery highlights the experience of seniors at the Heritage Senior Community Center, a facility that receives lottery revenue.

“It’s just wonderful for all the older people,” one testimonial said. “There are some here that never see anybody all day long, and this is what they live for.”

According to a Pennsylvania Lottery Benefits Guide, 52 area agencies in all 67 Pennsylvania counties receive lottery funding.

That money provided, among other things, 8.9 million meals in 2015-16. Each day, lottery money is used to deliver 24,000 meals to older Pennsylvanians, the guide says.

Brief fling with online lotteries in 2015

Two years ago, the lottery could’ve undergone a major change by offering online lottery play, which happens in states like Michigan and Illinois.

Pennsylvania’s House Gaming Committee held a hearing dubbed “Exploring the Potential of Online Lottery/Gaming in Pennsylvania.Neither online lotteries nor PA online casinos materialized in the state. Online lottery and gambling are back on the table this year as lawmakers consider a gambling expansion package.

But 45 years later, the lottery is still going strong.

Image credit: Icatnews / Shutterstock.com

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren is a freelance writer and author. He is a three-time winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism contest. His work has appeared in numerous blogs and publications including Bespoke Post, Snooth, Our Amazing Norway, Barcelona Metropolitan and The Villages Daily Sun.