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Alaska lottery fundraiser hits the jackpot

AlaskaAlaska: Alaska lottery fundraiser hits the jackpot

With a half-million-dollar payoff as the lure, a lottery of unprecedented scale in Alaska has proven immensely popular, with tickets selling out in shops across the state as the initially scheduled drawing time approached Wednesday evening, according to organizers.

In the end, though, late-arriving ticket stubs from the Bush prompted organizers to postpone the drawing a week.

But liquor stores, pull-tab parlors and restaurants in nearly 30 communities had already sold about 130,000 tickets at $5 apiece by midafternoon, said Abe Spicola, owner of Lucky Times Pull Tabs in Spenard, which organized the event.

"All our communities basically sold out of all their tickets," said Spicola, a former state gaming investigator. "Basically, I had always (known) that lotteries were allowed in Alaska under general gaming laws; it's just that no nonprofit organization has ever put one on before."

The event, run in partnership with Standing Together Against Rape, is billed as "Alaska's First $500,000 Lottery" and the gaming public apparently liked the odds. Outside Lucky Times Wednesday evening, pedestrians and haphazardly parked cars snarled traffic in the parking lot. Dozens of people lined up inside to scribble their names and phone numbers intently on ticket stubs while the line at times backed up almost to the door as a steady stream of customers paraded in.

Among them was Jeffri Stangl, a 44-year-old homemaker, who showed up to buy two tickets after hearing about the lotto from her sister-in-law.

"Honestly, I just got a PFD check too, so it's kind of like, take a chance on $10, you know?" Stangl said. "I hope to get lucky and it's also supporting a good cause."

Raffles and lotteries can only operate in Alaska on behalf of a charity, which must get at least 10 percent of what's left after the prize, said Johanna Bales, deputy director of the tax division with the state Department of Revenue.

STAR has a gaming license and was looking to raise some money for community education, said executive director Nancy Haag.

"We've done our own personal raffles -- not on this magnitude -- and I know that the lottery/raffle is not something that has been done in Anchorage before," Haag said.

Although ticket sales have been booming, if Lucky Times and STAR had started earlier, they could have brought in even more money from the lotto this year, she and Spicola said, but they expect future events to be more fruitful.

Bales said her division is watching the lotto, which has the largest prize in Alaska to date, and will likely audit it in the end to ensure things were done by the books. Though the lotteries are for charity, lotto operators can get an "operators fee," considered an expense, so they can make a profit, Bales said. There is no limit on the jackpots, so, theoretically, Alaska could even see a multimillion-dollar lottery, she said.

Could this pave the way for more high-dollar charitable lotteries?

"You know, that kind of depends on what happens here," Bales said. "It's really hard to tell. I know that in the past some operators have talked about doing something this large but felt like there wasn't really the population base for this size of a jackpot, but that was several years ago."

Spicola agrees that the state can't support a mega lotto, but he does think it can support a bit more. In coming years, he hopes to offer a $1 million jackpot split between drawings on New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July. He also said he plans to print 500,000 tickets for future drawings and, if he sells them all, give STAR a $500,000 payout rather than 10 percent.

If a lottery operator fails to raise the money needed for the prize, state law requires it to either postpone the drawing to get it or refund the sold tickets, Bales said.

Behind the counter at Lucky Times, Spicola's wife and co-owner, Heidi Spicola, was busy helping a steady stream of customers. She said coming up short isn't likely to be an issue, at least this time around.

"We're good. We're good," she said. "We knew that it was going to be successful; we just knew that it was going to be a lot of work too. It's been a big learning experience, but we're up to the challenge. We're still young."

Tickets will remain on sale, in Anchorage at least, until the lottery's drawing, now scheduled for Friday, Jan. 9, at 7 p.m. at Rumrunners Old Towne Bar downtown.

Bev Smith takes money and hands out tickets for Alaska's $500,000 Lotto at Lucky Times Pull-tabs, Dec. 31, 2008.
Bev Smith takes money and hands out tickets for Alaska's $500,000 Lotto at Lucky Times Pull-tabs, Dec. 31, 2008.

Anchorage Daily News

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8 comments. Last comment 6 years ago by myturn.
Page 1 of 1
s5thomps's avatar - Lottery-033.jpg
Hard Luck, Ak
United States
Member #23472
October 13, 2005
251 Posts
Offline
Posted: January 2, 2009, 12:25 am - IP Logged

Guess I missed out on that one! Pull Tabs are really popular here in Alaska, I think the state should try to tie in with either Powerball or Mega Millions or maybe one of the smaller multi-state lotteries like Hot Lotto. I think that would solve the population issue and Alaskans would have a chance at a large jackpot.

         YOU BETCHA!      Wink

    Todd's avatar - Cylon 2.gif
    Chief Bottle Washer
    New Jersey
    United States
    Member #1
    May 31, 2000
    21506 Posts
    Online
    Posted: January 2, 2009, 12:31 am - IP Logged

    Guess I missed out on that one! Pull Tabs are really popular here in Alaska, I think the state should try to tie in with either Powerball or Mega Millions or maybe one of the smaller multi-state lotteries like Hot Lotto. I think that would solve the population issue and Alaskans would have a chance at a large jackpot.

             YOU BETCHA!      Wink

    Ugh!  I feel for you, missing out on the draw.  I'll try to keep my eye out in advance the next time one comes around.

    I love the part in the story about the drawing being delayed for a week, while the tickets come in "from the bush".  You all are truly on the frontier!  Love your Gov.

     

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      s5thomps's avatar - Lottery-033.jpg
      Hard Luck, Ak
      United States
      Member #23472
      October 13, 2005
      251 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: January 2, 2009, 12:55 am - IP Logged

      Ugh!  I feel for you, missing out on the draw.  I'll try to keep my eye out in advance the next time one comes around.

      I love the part in the story about the drawing being delayed for a week, while the tickets come in "from the bush".  You all are truly on the frontier!  Love your Gov.

      Thanks Todd!, I love the story, with the draw being as successful as it was, I am sure it's a matter of time until we get a state lottery here in Alaska.  I might just send Gov Palin a letter telling her all the benefits it can have for Alaska and she can go on CNN and take the credit for implementing the start of it.

                                     Thumbs Up

        Avatar
        Northern California
        United States
        Member #19948
        August 9, 2005
        146 Posts
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        Posted: January 2, 2009, 10:42 am - IP Logged

        I was sent to Anchorage in December, 1995 (Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr) to work on an "Iditarod Sled Dog Lottery". The idea was to sell simple, online tickets through the old dial-up ticket validation terminals.  No need for a statewide dedicated phone line set-up (since non existed an putting one in would have been prohibitively expensive - especially for a one-time, event driven game).

        What a week - dark till 11:30 a.m. and dark again at 3:30 p.m.. As soon as we arrived, guys from the State started saying "well - you can't do this and you have to do that" and after about 4 days, I said "screw this - I'm going home".

         

        I'm glad to see someone got to host a game and that the proceeds went to a good cause.

         

        Even with todays less expensive, full-function terminals and satellite networks, it would still be incrementally expensive to try and run Powerball, MM or any other OL or even automated instant tickets in Alaska. It might work if they set up really high payouts and agreed to take a low% for the beneficiary. But there would be a lot of times (especially with weather and distances/logistics) where it would be tough.

          Avatar
          Bondi Junction
          Australia
          Member #57242
          December 24, 2007
          470 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: January 3, 2009, 4:20 am - IP Logged

          Alaska should set up a state lottery. Why not? It would raise funds for the public. Many people would support it, and people who are against lotteries are still free not to participate.

            DC81's avatar - batman39
            MI
            United States
            Member #54830
            August 31, 2007
            977 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: January 3, 2009, 5:21 pm - IP Logged

            Alaska should set up a state lottery. Why not? It would raise funds for the public. Many people would support it, and people who are against lotteries are still free not to participate.

            Not a big enough population to sustain it.

            You can't predict random.

              s5thomps's avatar - Lottery-033.jpg
              Hard Luck, Ak
              United States
              Member #23472
              October 13, 2005
              251 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: January 3, 2009, 9:22 pm - IP Logged

              Not a big enough population to sustain it.

              I think it could work if you tied in with one of the mult-state games like Mega Millions, powerball or Hot Lotto.

                                                                               YOU BETCHA!       Wink

                Avatar
                Bondi Junction
                Australia
                Member #57242
                December 24, 2007
                470 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: January 4, 2009, 12:35 am - IP Logged

                Not a big enough population to sustain it.

                They could offer a subscription throughout the country, not just to Alaska residence. The Massachusetts lottery's subscription service to open to all, not just in-state residence. When I called to buy my subscriptions I gave them my california address if was not a problem. The only difference was that they said they couldn't send my subscription tickets by US MAIL, that have to send them by courier and I had to pay $5 extra for that.

                 

                It's the same when I renewed, I just call give my account and payment details and about a week later my new subscriptions arrive by courier .

                 

                Alaska could have a similar service, an 800 number for people to order their subscriptions on and charge people a few dollars extra to send subscriptions by courier. I would play!