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THE AIRCRAFT LOTTERY
2000 / JANUARY

Lotteries originated as a means of raising funds for philanthropic ventures, such as the construction of schools, accommodation for students, hospitals or religious instititutions, or to pay for the upkeep of such institutions. Lotteries of this type became widespread, and in Ottoman Turkey, for instance, lotteries were held to raise funds for the construction of Kandilli Royal School for Girls, and to assist pupils in need at vocational schools in Yzmir. But these charitable and fund raising lotteries were mainly local and small in scope, and none compared to the scale of the Turkish Aircraft Association Lottery of the early Turkish Republic. Instead of the traditional raffle prizes, this new lottery paid money prizes. Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic, realised the important role of aviation, summing it up in the words, ‘the future lies in the skies’.

But the young republic was severely limited financially, as debts inherited from the Ottoman Empire were still being paid off.

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THE AIRCRAFT LOTTERY
2000 / JANUARY

Since funding a major investment like aviation from the budget was impossible, it was decided to give a monopoly on lottery organisation to the Turkish Aircraft Association. The association raised further funds by collecting sheepskins during the Sacrifice Bayram and selling them, publishing and selling copies of Atatürk’s Great Speech, and commissioning and selling busts of Atatürk.

The government gave monopolies in all these activities to the Aircraft Association. The Turkish Aircraft Association Lottery Act was passed on 9 January 1926, and the first draw held on 19 April that year. Due to his experience in organising the Naval Association Lottery during Ottoman times, Edvard Mizraki (1860-1932), former manager of Selânik Bank, was selected as director of the new lottery. The first year ten draws were held in Ankara, and in subsequent years two lots of six draws took place in Istanbul University Conference Hall.

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THE AIRCRAFT LOTTERY
2000 / JANUARY

Together with eight new year draws, the lottery altogether held 174 draws over the next 13 years. The new year draws did not begin until 1932, and marked the beginning of a tradition to be followed up by other lotteries. This draw was independent of the others. The first new year lottery tickets bore the signature of Mahmut Celal Bayar, later to become Turkey’s third president, and at that time parliamentary deputy for Yzmir and general manager of Y? Bankasy, which guaranteed payment of the prizes. In the first two years the tickets were written in old Turkish script, with notes in French on the back.

The tickets for the first five sets of 34 draws in all were of this type, changing after the adoption of the new Turkish alphabet based on Latin characters in 1928. Some initial quirks of spelling can be seen on the tickets for the next few draws. Meanwhile the Turkish Aircraft Association was renamed the Turkish Air Association.

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THE AIRCRAFT LOTTERY
2000 / JANUARY

As the lottery expanded it became impossible for an organisation whose principal field was aviation to cope with it any longer, and on 5 July 1939 a special authority was established to organise it: the Milli Piyango Ydaresi (National Lottery Authority). For the first few draws the tickets were overstamped with the name National Lottery, until new tickets were printed.

The system of draws and prizes was very complex. Until 7 August 1940 tickets were never sold as whole lots but in fractions of tickets. The first ten draws in 1926 consisted of 40,000 ticket numbers, each divided into ten. This made 400,000 tickets altogether. So if the ten tickets bearing the winning number had been purchased by ten different people, they each received a tenth share of the prize.

The idea of this system was to ensure an even distribution of prize winners over the country, by sending the different tickets with the same numbers to different provinces.

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THE AIRCRAFT LOTTERY
2000 / JANUARY

The second year tickets representing one fifth shares and half shares were also issued. But due to the distribution system it was still impossible to make up a whole ticket by buying those with the same number. Keen lottery ticket buyers could subscribe to all six annual draws during the first year or buy tickets for all six at once.
All the numbers and prizes were written out on pieces of paper, and then mixed up prior to the draw.

Instead of drawing individual digits one by one to make up the number as is done today, whole numbers were drawn. Then the prize tags were similarly drawn to determine what sum of money a particular number had won. After each of the first five draws, the winning ticket numbers were removed, and following the final sixth draw, draws were held among the remaining tickets for consolation prizes. The early tickets were printed with letters as well as numbers to left and right, so that they could be torn in half and still show the number.

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THE AIRCRAFT LOTTERY
2000 / JANUARY

For example, in the 1932 new year draw, each half ticket counted as a one fortieth share, which enabled even the poorest to participate in the draw.

The prize money was not as substantial as it is today, but nevertheless sufficient to make a great difference to the lives of those who won the main prizes Certain lottery ticket booths whose tickets happened to draw the main prizes became almost legendary, and people would go to great pains to buy their tickets there.

The Milyon booth in Kadyköy, Servet booth in Be?ikta?, Tek Kollu Cemal booth, Zengin booth in Beyo?lu, Nimet booth in Eminönü, Kader booth, Akgün booth in Bahçekapysy, and Harp Malûlü Karde?ler booth in Sirkeci were among these famous booths in Istanbul.

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THE AIRCRAFT LOTTERY
2000 / JANUARY

Over the 13 years of the Aircraft Lottery, prizes were in hundreds of thousands of Turkish lira. Not until the beginning of 1952 with the National Lottery did it first become possible for a single lottery player to win a prize in the millions by buying a full ticket. Prizes in increasing multiples of millions continued for 34 years, until in 1986, driven by inflation, billions first appeard. At the beginning of the year 2000 we had to get used to another number, the trillion. So good luck to all lottery players.

 

 


* Tunca Varis is a freelance writer.

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