Top prize in first Lotto draw went to Invercargill

NICOLA FALLOW
Last updated 05:00 06/02/2013

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Back in the days when a small fortune was, well, smaller, Ewen and Catherine Sinclair of Invercargill dispensed one of New Zealand's most famous.

The then Surrey Park Dairy owners sold the biggest prize in the very first Lotto draw on August 1, 1987.

As a result, an unidentified 38-year-old Invercargill City Council employee walked away with $90,112.

In these days of $20 million wins, a total short of six figures might be less than staggering, but it was a big deal at the time.

The dairy, thereafter promoted as the Lucky Lotto Shop, later had queues stretching outside the building as people lined up for their piece of the action.

"It was quite exciting at the time," Mr Sinclair, now living in Wellington, said.

The winner was one of four who each collected $89,952, though the Invercargill man was the largest single winner, picking up some minor prizes as well from his $50 punt.

He later told The Southland Times he had known he had all the numbers but not whether they were on the one line and he could not bear to check.

"I got the first four in a row but I did not carry on [comparing the numbers] because I was getting a bit excited. I gave them to a friend, who checked them."

Incidentally, Mr Sinclair had a windfall himself in that first Lotto draw - amid circumstances never repeated.

There was nothing remarkable about the $16.50 he picked up as a division 4 winner, except there were more than 17,000 winners in that division and only 8701 in division 5, so their prize, at $23.60, was larger.

Not surprisingly, many in division 4 asked if they could drop down a division, New Zealand Lotteries spokeswoman Karen Jones said.

"We had to explain to them that this was, unfortunately, not possible because the gaming system only recognises the highest division won on one board for a payout, in this case, division 4," she said.

It had never happened again in New Zealand and was still rare anywhere in the world.

It is no longer permitted but when the Sinclairs sold their dairy in 1994, they were also able to sell their Lotto franchise, which they did, to Pak 'n Save, Ms Jones said.

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- The Southland Times

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