New Hampshire's lottery chief warned House and Senate tax experts Thursday that revenue will remain flat unless lawmakers agree to raise the price of instant scratch tickets.
Sweepstakes Commission Executive Director Rick Wisler is asking the Legislature for permission to double the most expensive ticket - from $10 to $20.
The change would generate $3.8 million more in the year ending June 30, 2006, according to Wisler.
If the commission were to get permission to raise the price still higher to $25 in late 2006, Wisler said his agency would generate $3 million more to a record $77.2 million the following year.
Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Lou DAllesandro, D-Manchester, is authoring legislation to allow for the ticket price increase.
Wisler said the bill as written would raise the price for the $10 ticket to $20.
The Legislature could decide to raise that limit to $25, he said. If it was passed as is, the commission would meet and consider whether it wants to sell a $15 ticket and eventually go to $20 or start with a $20 and then go to $25.
The $20 ticket would allow the state to offer a top jackpot prize of $250,000, up from the $150,000 prize limit with a $10 ticket.
Currently, there are 11 states that sell either a $20 or $25 scratch ticket, Wisler said.
Connecticut and Kentucky sell the highest-priced scratch ticket in the country at $30 apiece.
I used to think a $10 scratch ticket was as high as we would go, but the publics expectation for higher jackpots has gone up, Wisler said. Weve got charitable organizations last summer selling raffles to win a Corvette that cost $100 a ticket, and they were successful.
A decade ago, the Legislature approved selling a $5 ticket and then approved an increase to $7 in 2000 and the $10 ticket sale in 2002.
Its common for us to see a bump in revenue for two years after we introduce a new price point (increase) and then the revenue tends to level off, Wisler said.
Thats what happened with the state lottery, which was founded in 1964. It has grown steadily since 2000, but then it fell by $2.7 million in the year that ended last June 30.
The dip also was connected to Powerball, the large jackpot game that New Hampshire is hooked into with 16 other states.
Powerball and Megabucks are jackpot-driven games, Wisler said. If we get the big jackpots, we do well in sales. If we dont have big ones in a given year, the sales suffer.
Scratch tickets continue to be by far the hottest selling item for the state lottery. Unlike other games, its the only one controlled exclusively by the state.
Megabucks is a large jackpot game jointly run by the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
We continually have to be creative in order to increase revenue from the state, Wisler said.
Indeed, the state introduces 55 new scratch ticket games a year, or an average of one per week.
If lawmakers approve the increased ticket price, Wisler said he would recommend the new ticket be introduced just before the Christmas holidays.
When we went to a $10 ticket, we sold so many in November that we ran out of tickets three weeks before Christmas and had to get more, he said. They were that successful.