The Texas Lotto jackpot has fallen short of the amount advertised on three occasions since November because of lower-than-anticipated ticket sales, a lottery spokesman said Monday.
Sales are running almost 26 percent behind last year's pace, said spokesman Bobby Heith, blaming the problem on increased competition for the Texas gambler's money.
Overall lottery sales, including tickets for scratch-off games, are up almost 11 percent over fiscal 2004, he added.
A longtime lottery critic filed a false-advertising complaint with the state attorney general's office after last Wednesday's actual Lotto jackpot fell about $1.3 million short of the $8 million advertised. Nobody won, and the attorney general, after consulting with lottery officials, took no action.
Had there been a winner choosing a 25-year payout, he would have collected only about $6.7 million, lottery officials said. Winners selecting the cash option get only half of the advertised jackpot.
The Lottery Commission said that was the third shortage in a Lotto jackpot since last fall. On Nov. 3, an $8 million advertised jackpot was $717,000 short, and on Feb. 12, another $8 million jackpot was short by $270,000. There was no winner either time, allowing the shortages to correct themselves with subsequent drawings.
An advertised jackpot is based on a forecast of how many tickets will be sold for a particular drawing, and "on those occasions, there was a shortfall," Heith said.
Wednesday's shortfall prompted lottery officials, for the first time, to freeze the advertised jackpot at $8 million for last Saturday's drawing, which also went unclaimed.
Normally, estimated Lotto jackpots are increased when there is no winner.
According to Lottery Commission calculations, sales plus interest for last Saturday's drawing totaled $8.2 million, enough to have covered a winner. Heith said lottery officials also are confident the $9 million jackpot advertised for this Wednesday's drawing is solid.
"Once it (the jackpot) rolls to $9 million, we begin to see the sales increase," he said.
The lottery was created by the Legislature and approved by Texas voters in 1991. Total lottery sales, including the Lotto and scratch-off games, reached a peak of $3.7 billion in fiscal 1997. After declining, they climbed back to $3.4 billion in fiscal 2004 after the Legislature approved Texas' participation in the multistate Mega Millions game.
Sales for Texas Lotto alone, however, dropped about 9 percent from fiscal 2003 to fiscal 2004 — to $477.8 million. And Lotto sales for the first 40 weeks of fiscal 2005, which began Sept. 1, are down almost 26 percent, compared to the first 40 weeks of last year, Heith said.
He blamed the decline on increased gambling opportunities in neighboring states, including casinos in Louisiana and New Mexico. The multistate Mega Millions game also may be cutting into Texas Lotto.
Most of the lottery proceeds, 58 percent, pays for prizes. The state gets about 30 percent, which is dedicated to public education. About 7 percent pays for administration, and 5 percent goes to the retailers who sell the tickets.
The false advertising complaint over last week's jackpot shortfall was filed by Dawn Nettles, publisher of The Lotto Report, an online newsletter.
"All the people of Texas want (is) a fair game of chance, and we want a guarantee that we will receive our share of sales," she said. "We demand truth in advertising."
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Greg Abbott said he believes lottery officials are properly addressing the issue.