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Who owns New York State lottery?

The New York State Lottery is owned and operated by the New York State Gaming Commission, which is a government agency of the State of New York. The Lottery was established in 1967 through a constitutional amendment approved by New York voters. Since its inception, the New York Lottery has generated over $78 billion in revenue for education aid in New York.

Quick Facts About New York State Lottery

Here are some key facts about the New York State Lottery:

  • Established in 1967 through a constitutional amendment approved by New York voters
  • Owned and operated by the New York State Gaming Commission, a government agency
  • Has generated over $78 billion for education aid in New York since inception
  • Provides approximately 14% of total state education aid each year
  • Offers a variety of draw games and scratch-off instant games
  • Currently has over 15,500 lottery retailers across the state
  • Headquartered in Schenectady, NY with regional offices across the state
  • Employees over 100 people in marketing, sales, IT, security, and other positions

History of the New York Lottery

The idea for a state-run lottery in New York was first proposed in the 1950s as a way to generate additional revenue for education. In 1965, a constitutional amendment to allow a lottery was passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. The amendment was then approved by New York voters in a referendum vote in 1966.

The New York State Lottery held its first drawing on March 21, 1967. The original games were a weekly jackpot drawing and a daily numbers game. In the first year, the Lottery generated over $53 million in revenue. Revenue continued to grow steadily, reaching over $100 million annually by 1972.

Over the decades, the New York Lottery has introduced new games to keep revenues climbing. Some key milestones include:

  • 1978 – Daily Numbers game changed to use a computerized random number generator
  • 1980 – Lotto introduced as a 6-of-59 jackpot game
  • 1983 – First instant scratch-off ticket games offered
  • 1996 – Powerball added as a multi-state jackpot game
  • 2002 – Mega Millions added as a second multi-state jackpot game
  • 2013 – Quick Draw electronic keno-style game launched

Today, the New York Lottery offers eight draw games, dozens of scratch-off instant ticket games, Keno To Go, and video lottery games at licensed gaming facilities across the state.

Where Lottery Revenue Goes

As mandated in the original constitutional amendment, all net revenue from the New York State Lottery is directed to support education in the state. Currently, Lottery profits provide approximately 14% of total state education aid each year.

Lottery funds are used to support the operating budget of public elementary, middle, and high schools across New York. The money goes towards salaries for teachers, administrators, and other school personnel as well as funding academic programs, extracurricular activities, facilities maintenance, and other school expenses.

While the Lottery was originally promoted as providing additional funding on top of state education budgets, over time portions of the state education budget were redirected into the Lottery revenue. This led to criticisms that the Lottery was being used to fund education expenses the state should have been covering directly. However, the additional billions generated annually by the Lottery is still a vital funding source for schools.

Where To Play New York Lottery Games

New York Lottery tickets can be purchased at over 15,500 licensed retailer locations across the state. Tickets can be bought at convenience stores, supermarkets, liquor stores, gas stations, and other types of shops. You must be 18 or older to buy Lottery tickets.

The most popular place to buy Lottery tickets is at convenience stores – over 7,000 of the state’s convenience stores sell lottery tickets. Here is a breakdown of some of the most common retail locations offering lottery tickets in New York:

Retailer Type Number of Locations
Convenience Stores 7,362
Supermarkets 1,934
Gas Stations 1,407
Liquor Stores 1,118
Bodegas 896

You can find a map of retailers in your area by using the Lottery’s website. Players can also purchase tickets online at the New York Lottery’s website and official mobile app. However, online ticket sales are restricted to New York residents and you must be at least 18 to play.

New York Lottery Games

The New York Lottery offers a wide selection of lottery games to choose from. Here is an overview of the different games available as of October 2022:

Multi-State Jackpot Games

  • Powerball – Drawn Wednesday and Saturday nights, starting jackpot is $20 million
  • Mega Millions – Drawn Tuesday and Friday nights, starting jackpot is $20 million

In-State Jackpot Games

  • Lotto – Drawn Wednesday and Saturday nights, starting jackpot is $1 million
  • Cash4Life – Drawn daily, top prize is $1,000/day for life

Daily Number Games

  • Numbers – Players pick 3 or 4 numbers, drawn twice daily
  • Win 4 – Pick 4 numbers, drawn twice daily
  • Take 5 – Pick 5 of 39 numbers, drawn daily

Instant Games

  • Scratch-off tickets – Variety of themed games costing $1 to $30 per ticket
  • Print on Demand (POD) Games – Lottery terminal prints tickets with randomized numbers/symbols

Video Lottery Games

  • Quick Draw – Electronic keno-style draw game offering midday and evening draws
  • Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) – Electronic games available at licensed facilities

The Lottery regularly introduces new scratch-off instant ticket games and limited time or seasonal online games. Players can check the Lottery website or sign up for email promotions to stay updated on new games.

Odds and Prize Payouts

Every New York Lottery game has different odds of winning and potential prize payouts. Multi-state jackpot games like Powerball and Mega Millions have the biggest jackpots but extremely low odds of winning – only around 1 in 300 million chance of hitting the jackpot. Smaller prize tiers have better odds ranging from around 1 in 24 for matching 3 numbers to 1 in 12.6 million chance of matching 5 numbers.

For other online draw games like Lotto, Cash4Life and Take5, the odds of winning the jackpot range from around 1 in 3 million to 1 in 28 million. Matching some numbers yields odds from 1 in 50 to 1 in 10,000. Instant scratch-off games have varying odds depending on the price point and prizes – generally the odds range from around 1 in 4 to 1 in 3.

By law, the New York Lottery must pay out a minimum of 50% of gross revenue in prize money. In practice, the actual payout percentage has consistently been much higher over the history of the Lottery:

Year Prize Payout
1975 57%
1980 59%
1985 62%
1990 65%
2000 68%
2010 72%
2020 82.5%

In 2020, the New York Lottery paid out $8.6 billion in prizes on $10.4 billion of revenue. This 82.5% payout rate means that players collectively won back over $0.80 for every $1 spent on tickets. However, the likelihood of any single player winning a major jackpot or top prize is still extremely low.

New York Lottery Scandals and Controversies

Despite being run by the government, the New York Lottery has not been free of scandals and controversies over its history. Some notable issues that have come up include:

  • 1978 – ABC scandal – A syndicate won the Daily Numbers game repeatedly by weighting balls based on recent drawings. This led to new ball machines and procedures.
  • 1980s – Retailer fraud – Some retailers claimed winning tickets were sold at their store when they were really keeping the tickets for themselves.
  • 2006 – Extra prize paid in error – A Lotto jackpot was accidentally paid at $136 million instead of $16 million due to human error.
  • 2015 – Jackpot rigging convictions – A lottery security officer conspired with lottery clerks to buy and claim winning scratch-off tickets.
  • 2018 – Vending machine hack – Criminals used stolen retailer credentials to remotely add credits to lottery vending machines.

While small in scale, these incidents damaged public trust to some degree. However, the New York Lottery has worked to increase oversight and security measures to identify and prevent such issues.

Biggest New York Lottery Jackpots

Over its 55+ year history, the New York Lottery has awarded some massive jackpots. Here are the top 10 record jackpots won on New York tickets:

Amount Game Date
$1.537 billion Mega Millions October 2018
$687.8 million Powerball October 2021
$425 million Mega Millions January 2021
$380 million Mega Millions January 2021
$208 million Powerball November 2012
$149 million Mega Millions September 2020
$136 million Lotto January 2006
$128 million Mega Millions December 2014
$121 million Mega Millions April 2011
$114 million Mega Millions March 2007

As these jackpots show, New York has minted its share of lottery millionaires and billionaires over the decades. With two multi-state games offering starting jackpots of $20 million or more, there is the potential for even bigger winnings in the future.

Famous New York Lottery Winners

A few big New York Lottery jackpot winners have gained media attention and become minor celebrities over the years. Some of the more famous lottery jackpot winners from New York include:

  • Robert Bailey – Won a $343 million Powerball jackpot in 2018. He was a retired federal government employee from Manhattan.
  • Louise White – Won a $336 million Mega Millions jackpot in 2014. She worked multiple jobs in a small Hudson Valley town.
  • Harold Diamond – Won a then-record $118 million Lotto jackpot in 2005. He was a 73 year old retired elementary school teacher in Syracuse.
  • Erik Ledbetter – Won a $314 million Powerball jackpot in 2014. He was an auditor living in Staten Island.
  • Yolanda Vega – Won a $30 million Lotto jackpot in 2009. She was known for being the Lottery’s on-air draw host for years.

Other winners have chosen to remain anonymous and avoid the spotlight after their big lottery wins. But these stories serve as inspiration that hitting it big can happen for anyone with a simple Lottery ticket.


The New York Lottery has a long and interesting history since being founded in 1967. While owned and operated by the New York State government, the Lottery has generated over $78 billion for education aid to schools across the state. Playing options have expanded from a single weekly drawing to an extensive portfolio including multi-state jackpot games, in-state draw games, instant scratch tickets, video lottery terminals, and more. The New York Lottery paid out a record $8.6 billion in prize money in 2020 alone. Major jackpots have made overnight millionaires, sparked scandals, and created minor celebrities over the past 55+ years. While gambling on the Lottery is not a guarantee of riches, many New Yorkers enjoy it as an entertainment option with the small chance of life-changing winnings.