Montana Lottery celebrates 35th anniversary

Jul 5, 2022, 12:10 pm (2 comments)

Montana Lottery

The Montana Lottery has generated $302 million to benefit the State of Montana since its inception in 1987, paying out more than $774 million in prizes to winners.

On average, the Lottery has paid out $62,369 every single day to winners.

But the Montana Lottery almost never happened.

The idea of starting a lottery in Montana was the brain child of longtime Butte state Rep. Bob Pavlovich. Pavlovich and Butte Sen. Lawrence Stimatz sponsored a bill in the 1985 Montana Legislature to create a lottery for Montana.

"The bill died," Pavlovich said.

In the final days of the session, Pavlovich went to the lawmakers who opposed it and asked if they would stand in the way of creating a legislative referendum — a legislative vehicle carrying the weight of law in which lawmakers ask voters to decide on a matter. With just days left to go in the session, Pavlovich garnered the 75 legislative signatures necessary and Legislative Referendum 100 was born.

Montanans had to wait more than a year — until Nov. 4, 1986 — to vote on the creation of a lottery, but when they did, the voters spoke decisively. The referendum passed in all 56 counties, carried by 69 percent of vote.

The Montana Lottery sold its first ticket on June 24, 1987. The enthusiasm Montanans had for the Lottery they created was evident on the first day:  The state sold a record 1.1 million lottery tickets on its opening day of sales — a figure that comes out to $1.28 per Montana citizen and a new record for per capita, opening day lottery sales in the United States. 

The Montana Lottery began selling only one thing: A $1 Scratch ticket called "Pot of Gold." Gov. Ted Schwinden bought the first two tickets ever sold. He was standing on a flatbed truck at the Montana Lottery kick-off event a few blocks from the Montana Capitol in Helena. Schwinden didn't win, but four hours away, another Montanan, Shirley Waldo, of Billings, also bought a ticket. Waldo won the state's first ever jackpot — $10,000 — on tickets she bought the very first day Montana Lottery tickets were sold.

On average, the Lottery has paid out $62,369 every single day that they've been in business to winners. When the Montana Lottery first began, there was no Powerball, no Montana Millionaire, no Treasure Play or sports wagering — only one kind of Scratch ticket.

The first year in operation, the Lottery sold $21.8 million in lottery tickets. Last fiscal year 2021, sales were $112.6 million. The Lottery has grown sales by 417 percent, while maintaining relatively the same number of employees as back in 1987.

The Montana Lottery was created to generate revenue — and fun — for the citizens of Montana. Over the last three decades, state lawmakers have changed the state programs funded by lottery revenues. Since the 1990s, revenues have gone to the Montana General Fund, where lawmakers use the money — along with all other state revenues — to fund the majority of state government and programs.  The law that created the lottery called for 45 percent of revenue to be paid back out as prizes, which has been over-delivered by the Lottery.

Lottery Post Staff


Mata Garbo

It's amazing what can happen when tired old legislators get out of the way and let the voters vote on lotteries in different states. The voters almost always vote in favor of the lottery. Happy anniversary Montana!!

US FlagSulk Off


Let my eyes play a little trick reading this.   Montana and Alabama have the same amount of letters, so pretended was reading about AL and not MT. 

Yes, get rid of the old goats holding up what folks want!  Here in KY the Family Council which is against everything it seems mentioned how they fought the lottery on the news a few weeks ago.  Well get over it, we have a very good lottery even if they did go to RNG.  Probably mentioned before that WDRB interviewed me on the way into Derby City Gaming several months ago.  Unfortunately for those who do sports gambling, it failed again.   On TV said I don't care what the family council says, folks will gamble. 


Anyway it is their turn to win the big one right after Vermont!

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