On a cold, clear night immediately after the New Hampshire primary election Governor John King stood in the enclosure of the Rockingham Park racetrack at Salem and became the first legal purchaser of a state lottery ticket in the U.S. since 1892. The second ticket was sold to another New Hampshire dignitary, Laurence Pickett, a seasoned lawmaker from Keene, whose long years of trying to persuade the legislature to pass the lottery bill had at last culminated in this moment of triumph. Then the ticket-dispensing machines were thrown open to the public. In the first seven days of operation, before the machines had been installed in liquor stores in New Hampshire—the only places, except for the three tracks in the state, where tickets can be sold—20,000 tickets were bought by citizens seeking a share in several million dollars in prizes to be distributed next September.
The actual operation of buying a ticket was a little anticlimactic. Governor King paid $3. The transaction was recorded on a device slightly larger than an electric typewriter, equipped with a telephonelike dial. The Governor's name and address were written on a small slip of paper, called "an acknowledgment of purchase." Then a lever was pulled, and the acknowledgment emerged from the machine, while the actual ticket—No 000001—bearing the Governor's name and address, remained inside.
A portly, dignified individual, Representative Pickett announced that he was making out his ticket to the Grand Exalted Ruler of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, for the benefit of the Elks Foundation. Governor King said that his winnings, if any, would also be given to charity. But the thousands who followed them were motivated by no such lofty impulses. They wanted the money.
While most of the U.S. was following Ambassador Lodge's stunning write-in victory in the New Hampshire presidential preference primary, in that state there was no less interest in the outcome of a special referendum approving or disapproving the sweepstakes. The circumstances were a little unusual, for the sweepstakes were actually already a part of the state government. A commission, headed by a good-natured ex- FBI man, Edward Powers, was busily operating in a cheerful, well-lighted, four-room office on the third floor of the new State House Annex in Concord and making careful plans for the future. The voters were called upon only to decide if they wanted the lottery in their respective towns. The commission intended to determine the winners of the lottery by means of a new Thoroughbred race, the New Hampshire Sweepstakes (3-year-olds, a mile and three-sixteenths), to be run for the first time at Rockingham Park on the afternoon of September 12, for a purse of about $150,000, of which the Sweepstakes Commission would put up $100,000.
But while thus established in plans—and partly on paper—the commission was frustrated because no tickets could be sold until after the primary. Among many other clauses, the bill that Pickett had drafted provided for a special ballot to be included in the primary: "Shall sweepstakes tickets be sold in this city or town?" There was no question but that enough towns would authorize their sale to permit operations to start. The question was one of popular support. The commission would need enthusiasm to succeed, and a close vote might be ruinous. Nothing was ruined.
The commission's plan of operation is to sell tickets, all at $3, until August 29, when the sale will be ended, in order to allow time for drawings before the race. The names of the horses will be placed in a small, rotating drum. The sweepstakes tickets will be placed in big, electrically driven drums, 333,333 tickets in each drum, or $1 million worth of tickets in each. A ticket bearing the name of a horse will be drawn from the small drum. A sweepstakes ticket bearing the name and address of a purchaser of a ticket will be drawn from a big drum, and this ticket will be assigned to the name of the horse that has been drawn. Then another ticket bearing the name and address of a purchaser will be drawn from the second drum and assigned to the same horse. The process will be repeated, with each horse being assigned a purchaser's name for every million dollars' worth of tickets. If two million tickets have been sold, or $6 million worth, there will be six big drums and six tickets on each horse. If three million tickets are sold, or $9 million, there will be nine tickets for each horse. The commission expects 250 to 300 horses to be nominated in the first days, but since fees rise steeply as the race approaches, probably there will be no more than 15 entries.
The prizes are big. Each person holding a ticket on the winning horse will get $100,000. Second place will be worth $50,000, third $25,000. Thus, if the lottery takes in $9 million, nine persons can win $100,000, nine more $50,000 and nine $25,000. There will be another 100 winners (approximately), representing the holders of tickets on other horses in the race, and these will collect a little over $9,000 apiece. Another 2,565 ticket holders, those who drew horses that were nominated for the race but did not run in it, will each collect a little over $500.
The commission bought 200 ticket-dispensing machines (for $200 each) and contracted with the Merchants National Bank of Manchester to prepare and stow away two million tickets, pending the outcome of the primary. It might not appear difficult for 200 strategically placed dispensing machines to sell three million $3 lottery tickets in five months, which is the figure the commission most often mentioned. The sale of Irish Sweepstakes tickets in New York is estimated to reach $12 million a year without the aid of mechanical devices. And on a single day the bettors at Santa Anita or Aqueduct may put $5 million into the mutuel machines. But there is a remarkable clause in the law. Section 284:21-h specifies that tickets can be sold only within the enclosure of a racetrack "where there is held a race or race meet...or in state liquor stores."
There are only two small harness tracks, in addition to the big track at Rockingham Park, which in itself is not large by the standards of Aqueduct or Laurel. And there are only 49 liquor stores, most of them located in remote country along the borders of Quebec, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine, where potential liquor buyers come into the state to take advantage of the fact that New Hampshire has no sales tax and liquor prices are low.
The point, as the commission saw it immediately, was that if its machines worked every day, they would have to sell 700 tickets a week to sell three million tickets, take in $9 million and clear around $4 million in revenue. But the machines would operate only when the liquor stores were open for business and during race meets, 145 days in all. It was an easy calculation that the machines would have to sell one ticket every five minutes or so in order to total three million. So, while the gloomy Goldwater supporters were stepping over television cables in their headquarters on Main Street in Concord and the Lodge supporters were demonstrating well-bred satisfaction in their headquarters at the Highway Motel, officials and common people concerned with the lottery were worrying about how many sales outlets the lottery would have.