Is the buzz that comes from buying a $20 scratch ticket starting to wear off?
Don't worry; you will soon be able to press a vending machine button and buy a nation-leading $30 ticket if the state lottery commission has its way.
The state Senate overruled its presiding officer and advanced a bill intended to give the Lottery Commission the freedom to decide when the top ticket of $20 has run its course.
Texas and Connecticut are the only state lotteries in the nation selling a $30 scratch ticket.
Heavy-selling retailers will find a bonus of their own in the bill (SB 365) as the state could adopt free-market principles in the commissions they receive.
Executive Director Rick Wisler said the lottery wants to kick up the commission and awards for selling a jackpot, a winning ticket and for those who sell the most tickets.
"We believe incentives would really boost sales. You see it in the private sector all the time," Wisler said.
The Senate Finance Committee will review the legislation that would give Wisler's commission the power to create a $30 ticket.
"I think it's a good assumption that if the Legislature acts, the $30 ticket could come in 18 months, but it depends on when the right time is to do it," Wisler said.
Senate President Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, opposed the bill and backed a move to kill it, which failed, 14-9.
"If we are going to have a discussion about an expansion of gambling, let's have that discussion and let all issues be on the table," Gatsas said.
Slot machine gaming at select locations, the introduction of off-track betting parlors are among the options that legislative leaders should consider before choosing to make more money with a higher-priced scratch ticket, Gatsas said.
Marketing of the high-priced tickets is already extreme, Gatsas continued, noting the $20 and $10 tickets are easily visible to the customer while the $1 and $2 scratch tickets are at ankle height.
Wisler said the $20 ticket has been a huge success since lawmakers approved the sale last year. It was predicted to produce $10 million by June 30.
"We've already sold $12 million and every week we are averaging a half-million dollars in sales of $20 tickets," Wisler said.
Patrons from Massachusetts, where the top scratch ticket is $10, have been a windfall source of money for the state, Wisler added.
"When we had the record ($365 million) Powerball jackpot last week, a high percentage of players from Massachusetts were coming in to play the Powerball and buy a $20 scratch ticket," Wisler said.
All these lottery changes came after Gov. John Lynch asked the three commissioners to design ways the state could increase aid to education from $75 million to $100 million.
Antrim Republican Sen. Robert Flanders said he opposes new forms of gambling, but lottery regulators are asking for tools to raise more money and the Legislature should oblige.
"We are tying their hands behind their back and telling them not to do it," Flanders said.
"You know my position on (expanded) gambling, but we have this, he said. "This is here." Senate Majority Leader Robert Clegg, R-Hudson, and Milford Republican Sen. Peter Bragdon joined Gatsas in wanting to kill the bill.
All other area senators opposed that step, including Nashua Democrats Joseph Foster and David Gottesman, Bedford Republican Sheila Roberge, Salem Republican Chuck Morse and Manchester Republican Andre Martel.
The following reflects the highest-priced ticket currently sold in New England states.
- New Hampshire: $20
- Massachusetts: $10
- Vermont: $20
- Maine: $20
- Rhode Island: $10
- Connecticut: $30
Note: Connecticut and Texas both sell $30 tickets, the most expensive of any state lotteries in the nation.