Swiss Lotto – creating and dashing dreams for half a century

Lottery fever bit this young man in 1990 (although to buy a ticket one has to be 16) Keystone

Exactly 50 years ago the first national lottery draw took place in Switzerland, with players of Swiss LottoExternal link having to choose six correct numbers out of 40 to win a top prize of CHF200,000. Since then 962 millionaires have been made. 

This content was published on January 10, 2020 - 11:30

Of course there have many, many more non-winners, but their losses have gone towards good causes: over the past 50 years around CHF6 billion ($6.2 billion) has been invested in charitable projects in the areas of culture, sport, nature and society, lottery company SwisslosExternal link said on Thursday. 

What got the lottery ball rolling in Switzerland was the fact that more and more Swiss were nipping over the border to try their luck on the German lottery. 

To ensure that the first official draw went off without a hitch on January 10, 1970, various test runs were held at the television studio in Zurich. 

The dress rehearsal for the first Swiss lottery draw was held on January 6, 1970. The real thing appeared on television screens four days later Keystone

The “6 out of 40” formula (to win the top prize) lasted for nine years, changing in April 1979 to “6 out of 42” and a jackpot. Various tweaks and additional games, such as Joker and EuroMillions, followed. 

The first lottery millionaire was created on April 28, 1979, with the lucky winner pocketing just under CHF1.7 million. The record individual prizeExternal link is CHF48.6 million in 2014. A total of CHF10 billion has been paid out as winnings over the past 50 years. 

Since January 10, 1970, a total of 3,804 lottery draws have been made and 25,892 numbers determined. The “luckiest” ball? 18. This popped out 654 times. 

The odds of winning the Swiss Lotto are about 31 million to 1.

Will being left-handed turn out to be lucky for these two players? Keystone

Not without criticism 

Swiss Lotto is not without criticism, however. A video by Swiss public televisionExternal link, SRF, explains how the public spends around CHF500 million a year on lottery tickets, of which CHF300 million goes towards the lottery fund, which is then divided up among Switzerland’s 26 cantons. 

Data for the past five years for 11 cantons shows how only 5% of the total goes towards small associations (sums of less than CHF10,000). A third of the money is paid out in amounts of at least CHF1 million, to institutions such as theatres, museums and concert halls. 

According to the data, gathered by news programme Rundschau, CHF30 million alone was spent on building work for Zurich’s museum of fine art. In Aargau, the state-owned Postauto (PostBus) company received CHF1.5 million for a research project. Also in Aargau CHF250,000 went towards celebrating the election of Doris Leuthard to the Federal Council. 

“There are inadequate checks and supervision, and a tendency for the cantons to help themselves to funds,” said Fabian Schnell from thinktank Avenir Suisse.

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