NotesThe Lotto ball drawing machine was used for the first Lotto draw on 5 November 1979. It was replaced by an Australian-made machine in August 1990. In recent years the machine has been on display at the head office of NSW Lotteries.
The numbers game of Lotto was established in New South Wales in 1979 under the Lotto Act. It was the third numbers game to be legalised in NSW, the other two being Lotteries (1931) and Soccer Pools (1975).
Lotteries was conducted by the State Lotteries Office, a government agency. Proceeds were directed to the funding of hospitals. On two occasions special lotteries were launched to raise funds for the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
The licence to conduct Soccer Pools was awarded to a private consortium, Australian Soccer Pools Pty Limited, whose principals were Robert Sangster, an English Pools magnate (and racing and society personality) and Rupert Murdoch, founder and chairman of News Ltd.
In the Lotto consortium Sangster and Murdoch were joined by Channel Nine owner Kerry Packer in conjunction with the State Lotteries Office. Subscriptions for Lotto were divided between a prize fund (60 per cent), government duty (31 per cent), with a commission payable to the operator on a sliding scale. However this arrangement was controversial and in 1985 the government resumed responsibility for Lotto from the private consortium. In 1989 NSW Lotteries began operating the Pools in NSW; and in 1994 Australia's first national lotto game, OZ Lotto, was introduced. By the 1990s Jackpot lotteries had become increasingly popular and in 1998 Australia's largest lottery prize win ($17.53 million) was won on a Powerball jackpot.
New South Wales was one of the last States to introduce lotto, the first being Victoria where the gaming company Tattersalls had been permitted to operate a lotto game (TattsLotto) since 1972. States either entered into agreements with Tattersalls or established their own version of the game, the path chosen by New South Wales. The game was based on the principles of probability with the aim of one or two substantial prizes paid periodically and numerous smaller prizes being paid each week.
Known simply as 'Lotto', the New South Wales game developed and operated by the licensee was modelled on TattsLotto, the game conducted by Tattersalls. Players selected six numbers on an entry coupon containing eight grids or boxes of the numbers one to forty, marking them with a cross. The aim is matching the numbers that were later drawn on a random basis by the use of special drawing equipment. A player could complete four, six or eight of the grids on the coupon according to the amount of money he wanted to spend. Players received dividends if they correctly forecast at least four of the numbers, with the prize pool split into four divisions, each paying a percentage on a sliding scale. This system ensured a regular supply of small prizes and jackpotting of major prizes so that on occasion an individual winner might receive a sum in excess of $1 million.
An additional number, known as the supplementary number, was also drawn. This is incorporated into the prize arrangements to increase or otherwise regulate the chances of prizes being won, in that it recognised that there may not always be an entry which will identically match the numbers drawn at random. The supplementary number catered for this situation. In the event of there being no entry with six numbers correct, then the first prize might be shared between those entries which have five correct numbers together with the supplementary number. Another alternative when such a situation arises is that the portion of the first prize might not be paid out, but carried forward or jackpotted to the following game.
An important feature of TattsLotto - also adopted by Lotto - was the live telecast of the on-camera selection by the ball drawing machine of seven numbers between one and forty to inject suspense and excitement. This was broadcast from the Sydney Channel Nine studio on Monday evenings. It was this aspect of the game that appears to have most influenced the design of the Lotto ball drawing machine.
Like other numbers games, Lotto's popularity lay in the opportunity to win large sums of money for a small outlay. That the results were immediately known also added to its appeal.
Lotto was heavily promoted, with double-paged advertisements in the tabloids declaring 'Today's the day to go Lotto', accompanied by a countdown to the first draw/game. The first Lotto draw was televised at 9.20 pm on Channel 9, hosted by TV personality Mike Walsh and former Playboy model Karen Pini. Its premiere was a gala affair including a variety special, with Jimmy Hannan, Nancye Hayes and Jack Webster performing numbers such as 'Luck Be a Lady Tonight' and 'Money Makes the World Go Round'.
The winning numbers were not selected on this occasion. The State's first Lotto millionaire was Sam Fabio, a Western Suburbs truck driver with four children, who won $1,185,872 in the Monday night draw on 17 March 1980.