Nearly 40 Years Since Mass. Brought Scratch Tickets to U.S.

One of the first “Instant Game” tickets.
One of the first “Instant Game” tickets.
Boston Globe Staff Photo. January 4, 1974.

As Massachusetts unveils its first $30 scratch ticket this week, it’s worth noting our great nation would not have instant lottery prizes at all without the innovations of the Bay State.

The Commonwealth unveiled the nation’s first “Instant Game” in May of 1974 as an alternative to the then weekly prize drawing. Prior to that, Israel was the only country with such a contest.

Each chance cost $1—nearly $5 in 2014 dollars—and offered prizes ranging from free tickets to $10,000, or about $48,000 in 2014 dollars. One in five tickets were guaranteed winners.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Mundane as any other gas counter purchase today, back then the new game took the state by storm, with retailers reporting mob-like scenes that disrupted their regular business.

Despite the commission distributing nearly two to four million tickets on launch day, many stores ran out within 24 hours.

“It was instant insanity,” Boston liquor store owner Charlie Miele told The Boston Globe in 1974. “That’s what I call it. I was going berserk with the crowds.”

“I’ve seen a lot of things, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” Lenox Cleaners owner John F. Cappelletti said in the same article. “The regular tickets are selling, but they aren’t moving nearly as fast as they did before. The people love it. It’s unbelievable.”

Crowds probably won’t overwhelm retailers over the state’s new $30 ticket, though the game does offer the lottery’s best odds ever: 1 in 2.83.