Lotto goes on sale for first time

22 July 1987

Lotto pamphlet, 1987
Lotto pamphlet, 1987 (Alexander Turnbull Library, Eph-A-LOTTERY-Lotto-1987/1988)

Outlets opened to long queues, with a first division prize in the inaugural draw of $360,000 (equivalent to more than $760,000 today). In the first year, Kiwis ‘invested’ nearly $249 million ($525 million) in the new lottery, which was based on a weekly draw of six numbers (plus a bonus number) between 1 and 40. Over the years Lotto has introduced new options such as Powerball and Strike.

By the early 2000s, 67 per cent of the population was regularly playing Lotto. Workmates and families formed syndicates to purchase weekly tickets. Nearly one-third of those buying tickets chose self-selected numbers rather than a computer-generated ‘lucky dip’.

By mid-2007 Lotto had paid out more than $3.75 billion in prize money to more than 63 million winners. The largest amount won on a single ticket is the $44 million jackpot won by a Hibiscus Coast couple in November 2016.

The profits from Lotto – about 70 cents in each dollar – are transferred to the Lottery Grants Board for distribution to sports, arts, film and community organisations. By 2015 the board had allocated $3.6 billion in grants. The amount requested continues to grow, while the amount available for distribution fluctuates in line with lottery sales and profits.

Video of first Lotto broadcast (NZ On Screen):