Thirty years ago this month the first Hoosier Lottery tickets were sold in Indiana.
Since then, Hoosiers have purchased $23 billion in draw game tickets and scratch-offs hoping to become millionaires, or at the very least win a few hundred or a few thousand dollars.
According to the Hoosier Lottery, plenty of Hoosiers have won both little and big over the past three decades — including a $536 million Mega Millions jackpot purchased in 2016 in Cambridge City, a $435.3 million winning Powerball ticket sold in 2017 in Lafayette, and a $74 million Powerball winner sold in 2011 at Meijer in Merrillville.
Also in the Region, retired East Chicago steelworker Peter Gilbert claimed the $54.5 million all-time record Hoosier Lotto prize in 2007.
Good Hoosier Lotto fortune struck again in Northwest Indiana just two years ago with a Valparaiso family winning $25.5 million in the Indiana-only draw game.
Altogether, $13.9 billion in prizes have been paid to Indiana lottery winners statewide since Oct. 13, 1989, according to the Hoosier Lottery.
After deducting the cost of prizes, retailer commissions, administrative costs and operating expenses, the Hoosier Lottery has generated a total of $6 billion in profits for the state over 30 years, or an average of $200 million in extra revenue every year.
The bulk of that money, some $4.4 billion, was deposited in the Build Indiana Fund, which primarily is allocated to provide a 50% reduction in the annual vehicle excise taxes paid by Hoosier motorists.
Another $887.6 million in lottery profits has been used to reduce the unfunded liability of the Teachers Retirement Fund, with an additional $699.7 million going toward local police and firefighters' pension funds.
"It's amazing to see the impact the Hoosier Lottery has had on Indiana over the last 30 years," said Sarah Taylor, Hoosier Lottery executive director.
"We are so proud of the revenue we've generated for the state, and that our revenue is being used to support the pension plans for our retired teachers, police officers and firefighters," she said.
"These dedicated Hoosiers educated our children and protected our lives and property. We hope that our support helps them enjoy their retirement for years to come."
A history of innovation
The current Indiana Constitution explicitly prohibited the creation of a state lottery and the sale of lottery tickets in Indiana when the governing charter was adopted in 1851.
However, after Illinois, Michigan and Ohio all established state lotteries in the 1970s, and Hoosiers frequently crossed state lines to purchase draw tickets and primitive scratch-offs, Indiana lawmakers in the 1980s decided the Hoosier State should get in the game.
Hoosier voters agreed.
In 1988, they ratified a constitutional amendment, by a 62% to 38% margin, rescinding the state's longstanding ban on lotteries, and authorizing the General Assembly to establish the Hoosier Lottery — the only lottery in the United States named for the people of a state, instead of the state itself.
The lottery's mission, then and now, is "to return maximum net income to the state in a socially responsible manner."
While Indiana was a latecomer to lotteries, at least compared to most of its neighbors, it has been an innovator, notably by pairing a winning lottery ticket with a chance to win even bigger prizes on the weekly television game show "Hoosier Millionaire."
During its 16 years on the air, ending in 2005, the show's hosts — Mark Patrick, Barbara Hobbs and Tony Lamont — awarded a $1 million prize 191 times to the top winner on the program.
Indiana also got in early on the first multistate draw game called Lotto America in 1990, and since 1992 known as Powerball.
In fact, the Hoosier Lottery sold the first Powerball jackpot winning ticket in the first drawing for the rebranded game, making Bert Morlan of Brazil, Indiana, a millionaire nearly six times over.
The innovations continued this decade with the Hoosier Lottery offering NFL-themed tickets, scratch-n-sniff scratch-offs featuring bacon and chocolate scents, a commemorative ticket for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 auto race, and the first scratch-off and draw game combination ticket known as Black Pearl.
Indiana also was among the first states to partially privatize its lottery sales and marketing, turning those tasks over to GTECH Indiana, now IGT Indiana, in 2012.
While privatization has not generated the massive jump in lottery profits originally forecast, it nevertheless still has produced year-over-year growth in revenue and profits well above what the lottery had achieved on its own prior to privatization.
The Hoosier Lottery will celebrate its 30th anniversary over the next 12 months with a marketing campaign showcasing how its games — sold in grocery stores, gas stations and myriad other retailers — connect Hoosiers in their communities.
It will highlight how players, retailers, employees and those who benefit from the $6 billion that the lottery has generated for the state all win, thanks to the lottery.
Among the lottery players whose stories are featured online at hoosierlottery30.com is Robert from Schererville, who said he likes playing crossword scratch-offs in between searching for hidden gems at antique stores and thrift shops.
The owner of two cats, Goldie and Rocky, Robert said if he ever wins big playing the lottery that he would "definitely invest in children's charities or an organization that helps animals."
The lottery's 30th anniversary celebration also includes events at retailers across the state where lottery players have the chance to win Hoosier Lottery tickets and 30th anniversary themed prizes.
On Wednesday, visitors to Trail Inn Liquors, 1307 E. Lincolnway, Valparaiso, who purchase $5 in Hoosier Lottery tickets between 3 and 5 p.m. can spin the wheel for a chance to open the lottery's anniversary prize locker.
Lottery ticket purchasers also can spin the wheel for additional prizes from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday at Witham Sav-a-stop, 6435 Howard St., Hammond; and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 30 at Strack and Van Til, 9825 Wicker Ave., St. John.
The lottery's 30th anniversary celebration will culminate next year with prizes and activities at the Aug. 7-23 Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis.