The Massachusetts State Lottery rolled the dice when it launched its first ever $20 instant ticket, the most expensive new product in its history.
A week after its big rollout, the gamble already appears to be paying off, with sales of the Billion Dollar Blockbuster off to one of the fastest starts of any ticket in Lottery history.
Nearly 2 million tickets have been sold so far, ringing up more than $40 million in sales. That edges two other tickets that in recent years got off to fast starts, the $800 Million Spectacular and the $5 million Jackpot, both $10 tickets.
The new $20 ticket is the latest in a national trend that is seeing state lotteries across the country turn to higher-priced products to keep revenues growing.
"We are talking about an amazing number of tickets," said Dan Rosenfeld, the Lottery's spokesman.
The initial success of the ticket could not come at a better time for the Lottery, which is coming off a year in which it saw its first decline in revenues in decades.
The drop has sparked concern because the Lottery is a key source of state aid to cities and towns. Last week, House Speaker Sal DiMasi (D-North End) even called for a review of the Lottery.
So far, Lottery revenues are up significantly this year, and the new ticket is expected to play a key role. Sales from the Billion Dollar Blockbuster are projected to generate $154 million in local aid for cities and towns, Rosenfeld said.
"It's in keeping with the national trends," said Clyde Barrow, a gambling industry expert and professor at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth."One of the ways lotteries are trying to reinvigorate their revenue streams is not only diversifying their offerings, but also by increasing the price point of their products."
Still, the trend toward more expensive scratch tickets is raising concerns at the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling. The $20 ticket means it will be that much easier now for people with gambling addiction problems to get into serious financial problems, said Margot Cahoon, a spokeswoman for the council.
"We are expecting people to call the hotline and say the $20 ticket has been a problem for them," Cahoon said.