Saturday, December 8, 2012

Florida (Lottery) Turns 25: Nostalgia Time!

What got me to be so fascinated with the lottery world? Fascinated enough to actually to go through to the trouble to actually start a blog. Like most people's personal fascinations, this goes back to my early childhood. So when I visited the Florida Lottery's website and saw their 25th anniversary "festivities" and the "revival" of their first instant game Millionaire, I couldn't help think of my memories of the Florida Lottery's early years, which closely paralelled my early years.

I grew up outside Tampa; and from the time Florida's Lotto started up, it was a weekly tradition for my dad to go to the local Presto store and buy 5 Lotto tickets. And back in those days, you would literally get 5 singular tickets, you didn't get one ticket with several lines like you do now. It may have been a little inconvenient, but they had a series of some pretty cool art on the head of ticket. I've seen old Minnesota and Pennsylvania tickets with something similar, as they used the same model of lottery computer. But they never looked as cool as the pictures on Florida's tickets. Sadly though, this is probably something we'll never see on lottery tickets again.

But there's one thing that would really drive the lottery player of today crazy. For the first couple of years of Florida Lotto, there was no quick pick. You came up with your own six numbers, or you didn't play. The strange thing is, this wasn't a common thing even then. By the time Florida got it's computerized games in 1988, most other states had quick pick. Florida wouldn't get it until 1990. So what did my dad do to pick his numbers? He got out the Rack-O game. This was a game where you had to put numbered cards in a sequence; or something like that, I never played it. But my dad used it to pick numbers by shuffling the cards (the ones numbered 1-49, anyway), and just drawing them one at a time, marking the number on the play slip. Sound fun? Well, it may have been slightly more engaging than a quick pick; but my dad was still pretty glad when quick pick came along.

It was hard not to notice the Florida Lottery's presence. There were Lotto billboards everywhere, with manual numbers that were changed without fail every Sunday morning (and Thursday morning after the second draw was addded). That was one of many touches that the first lottery director, Rebecca Paul, put on the new venture. She knew how to give a lottery charm, and did an equally good job of it when she started Georgia's lottery.

But my fondest memory of the Florida Lottery was the drawings! Watching the balls bouncing around was one of the coolest things my pre-pubecent eyes had ever seen. Bouncing here and there, and then one pops up, followed by another, and then another. My dad would sit there, hoping the numbers on the balls matched the ones on his tickets. I didn't have a ticket, nor would I for nearly two decades, but I enjoyed that one minute as much as anybody. So much so, I even made a point to watch the Illinois drawings on WGN. I didn't get to watch these very often though, as they aired just before the late news (on WTVT, channel 13, back when they were a CBS affiliate). And you can't let a small child stay up until 11 when he has kindergarten in the morning.
Florida is still one of the better lotteries out there; though after Rebecca Paul left, the lottery became very conservative in their approach compared to other large state's lotteries. Lotto was one of the biggest games in the country for several more years, but the rest of the lottery became very stale. The lottery remained one of the most conservative lotteries up until the mid-2000s, but in recent years Florida's been one of the more aggressive in terms of offering innovative games. However, they are still very wary of multi-state games. They were the last state lottery to not have a multi-state game until they joined Powerball in 2009. And they are still the only lottery to not offer Mega Millions, and they have no plans to join up to this point.

1 comment:

  1. Thank for the sharing best information about Florida Lottery. I have impressed a lot, great work!