Citing plummeting revenues that indicate a "jackpot fatigue" in state lotteries throughout the nation, the chairman of the Texas Lottery Commission challenged the organization's staff to consider boosting Lotto Texas sales by making the game more creative.
"Why can't we do something creative for a change — making it a $4 million jackpot and two Harley-Davidson motorcycles or a Corvette or one of those fancy trucks?" said Chairman C. Tom Clowe Jr. "Let's create some buzz. Let's give $4 million and a year's free groceries. Let's try it and see if it works."
Clowe's charge comes amid reports from the commission's financial administration that total lottery sales for the 2005 fiscal year decreased by 1.7 percent.
Though Pick 3 saw an increase in sales, jackpot games such as Lotto Texas and Mega Millions came up short — a trend mirrored by states across the nation.
"Jackpot games in the industry are in trouble because of the reliance on reaching a jackpot level that is acceptable to the public," said Robert Tirloni, products manager for the commission. "While people do play for the jackpot prize, when you continually play with no types of winning reinforcement, after a while, you may stop playing that game and go to a game where you're going to see some type of winning on a more regular or frequent basis."
The odds of a Lotto Texas player winning the jackpot is one in nearly 48 million, a change the commission made more than five years ago to accelerate jackpot amounts.
Yet Lotto Texas sales have dropped from $715 million in 1999 to $306 million last year, according to the agency.
The Mega Millions game, a multistate initiative, saw a 47 percent decrease in sales in Texas.
Benito Navarro, financial accounting and reporting manager for the commission, said 10 of the 11 other states that offer Mega Millions also reported sales decreases. Only Massachusetts saw an increase — about a third of 1 percent.
"We've got to do something with the game if we want to see it come back," Navarro said. "It's not coming back on its own. I appreciate the hard work you're doing with the instant tickets. But, as a bottom-line shareholder, I'm not so much interested in that as I am rescuing our sweetheart who's lame out there."
Also on Wednesday, Commissioner Rolando Olvera resigned after Gov. Rick Perry named him a state district judge in the Rio Grande Valley. Olvera will be judge of the 138th judicial district court, serving Cameron and Willacy counties.
The commission also continues searching for an executive director. Reagan Greer, a former Bexar County district clerk, resigned in July after admitting that he had signed off on advertising that inflated Lotto Texas jackpots.
Eight finalists for the job will be interviewed by a search committee Oct. 14, said Bobby Heith, lottery spokesman.