If someone won Wednesday night's Powerball jackpot, New Hampshire's tight state budget would be the big loser, according to the chairman of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission.
A winner of the $129 million jackpot would cool off betting in the final six weeks of the state's budget year, which could prevent the state from meeting its $71 million profit target, said Chairman Richard Campbell.
"We aren't going to make it unless Powerball gets on a roll," Campbell told Gov. John Lynch and the Executive Council during its breakfast meeting Wednesday.
Commissioners Paul Holloway and Arthur Klemm joined Campbell to deliver a wide-ranging and sobering outlook for the agency that created the state's first lottery 41 years ago.
"What we need is the ability to operate as a business," Holloway said. "If not, we will stay where we are, the status quo."
Gov. John Lynch called on the commission to "think outside the box" and prepare a long-range plan on how it would increase profit to $100 million a year.
"Think broadly about how we can improve," he said.
Powerball jackpots drive lottery sales, and last year they were large enough to generate at least $2.5 million a week on five occasions.
"This year, we have had only one of those runs," Campbell said.
The Tri-State Megabucks and related games sold in conjunction with Vermont and Maine earns New Hampshire $10 million a year, but it's off 1.5 percent this year, Campbell said.
Officials in the two other partner states are slow to accept new offerings that New Hampshire wants to offer customers.
"We have partners who are not very aggressive. If they don't meet their estimate, they just raise taxes," Holloway said.
"They continue to support tired programs."
Councilor Ruth Griffin, R-Portsmouth, said the commission should seek new alliances.
"Why don't we get out of it?" Griffin asked of the tri-state compact.
The commission is in the early stages of exploring that option, Holloway said.
The commissioners said they can generate more profit for state aid to schools if given flexibility to pay its sales force a commission rather than a fixed salary, a bigger advertising budget and allow people to buy a yearlong subscription to Powerball online.
The Legislature has a mixed record on giving the lottery what it has asked for this year.
Members approved a bill that Lynch will sign later this spring to unveil a $20 scratch ticket to produce a projected $4.8 million more over the next two years. Currently, the most expensive scratch ticket is $10.
But the House killed a measure that would allow someone other than state lottery staff to sell tickets on a temporary basis at rest areas, bowling lanes and truck stops.
Massachusetts is cutting into New Hampshire sales with its Mass Millions game, Campbell said.
At times, it has larger jackpots than Powerball, and those should grow now that California has become the latest state to join the group.
Massachusetts also increased its advertising budget from $400,000 to $5 million a year. New Hampshire's annual ad budget is $1.2 million.
"They are targeting our border communities," Campbell said. "It has had an effect."