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First Kentucky Lottery drawing machine donated to historical society

Kentucky LotteryKentucky Lottery: First Kentucky Lottery drawing machine donated to historical society

The Kentucky Historical Society has taken posession from the Kentucky Lottery Corporation of a unique piece of state history — the machine used to conduct the first legal lottery drawing of the 20th century in the Commonwealth.

The Beitel Criterion machine, widely seen on televised drawings, was used for Lotto Kentucky (the first numbers game offered in the state) and Cash 5 drawings from 1989 through 1993. During that time more than $350 million in prizes were awarded through drawings using the device.

The first Lotto Kentucky ticket was sold October 16, 1989, and the Beitel machine was used for the game's first drawing two days later (October 18). The game's first jackpot of $2 million was won by a Louisville couple on October 28.

The Society will also take possession of one of the original ball sets used in the machine, as well as retailer signage and vending machines.

"The KHS contacted us on our 20th anniversary back in April to see if we had any items that could be of historical significance," said Chip Polston, vice president of communications for the KLC. "When they came to our building to see what we had available, you could tell they thought they'd hit the motherlode when we offered up the machine that conducted the first lottery drawing." Polston said the machine has stood inside the front door of the KLC's Louisville headquarters since 1997.

The machines and equipment are being donated at no cost to the KY Historical Society.  It was taken out of service, and replaced with air-driven drawing machines, due to the lower maintenance and noise level of the newer machines.  The older machine has two churning devices in the big drum that rotated the weighty rubber balls, delivering a beating on the balls night after night.

"We had to replace ball sets on a pretty frequent basis to make sure the weights and diameters were exact," Polston remarked.  "Standing next to the machine always sounded like standing next to a dryer with 45 tennis shoes in it."

"The machine was retired and it stood in the Kentucky Lottery lobby for many years.  Rather than continuing to expose it to dust and the elements, and given the historic nature of the device, it made sense to allow the society to place it in their archival collection," Polston explained.

Before being absorbed by another corporation, Beitel drawing machines were used in 40 countries from South Africa to Iceland. A Beitel machine is still used by the National Basketball Association (NBA) for its player draft lottery.

"At the Kentucky Historical Society, our mission is to engage Kentuckians in the exploration of our commonwealth's diverse heritage," said Kent Whitworth, KHS executive director. "The acquisition of this original lottery machine speaks to a particular time period in our state's history and the stories surrounding this piece of equipment are both colorful and sometimes controversial."

The KHS holds a significant number of artifacts, most of which are stored in the Society's headquarters at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort. The museum is home to more than 120,000 artifacts. These artifacts are displayed in various exhibitions and are used to illustrate our state's history. While there are no current plans to publically display the Kentucky Lottery items, they will remain in the Society's archives to be used for scholarly research with the possibility of display at a later date.

Over the past 20 years, more than $11.8 billion in Kentucky Lottery tickets have been sold. Kentucky Lottery players have received $7.14 billion in prizes — and the Commonwealth has realized $3.12 billion in profits that have gone to fund college scholarships, education, adult and early childhood literacy programs, affordable housing and even bonuses for Vietnam veterans. Lottery proceeds started a process to be dedicated to college scholarship and grant programs in 1999. These highly successful programs — including the KEES scholarship program — awarded 1,062,000 scholarships and grants worth $1.35 billion from FY99 through FY09.

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

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