Pennsylvania Lottery sales for the 2005-06 fiscal year reached a record $3.07 billion, Gov. Rendell said yesterday.
Sales grew by $425 million, the largest dollar increase in the lottery's 34-year history, leaving the agency with a $400 million surplus. The state will use half that money to expand property-tax and rent-rebate programs for senior citizens, said Stephanie Weyant, a spokeswoman for the state Revenue Department.
The expanded rebates will go out in 2007 to pay for the 2006 tax year.
Lottery officials have taken numerous steps in recent years to boost sales to meet the escalating costs of the senior citizen programs that the games subsidize.
Lottery-subsidized programs also include prescription-drug assistance and free and reduced-fare public transportation. In the new budget year, lottery revenues also will help pay for long-term nursing care.
In 2002, Pennsylvania joined the multistate Powerball lottery, which features jackpots in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The state lottery also has introduced "Gus the Groundhog" as a new pitchman; expanded its retailer ranks by 20 percent, in part by installing new automated machines; and rolled out several new online games with better odds.
Once newly legalized slot-machine facilities are operating, slots revenue is supposed to be used for the rebate expansion; that money may become available in 2008. At the same time, the lottery will face competition from slot machines.
Pennsylvania Lottery officials have expressed confidence that lottery sales will remain strong, but the state budget office has projected annual sales increases of 1 percent or less starting July 1, 2007.
Annual Pennsylvania Lottery sales over the last decade:
1995-96: $1.6 billion
1996-97: $1.7 billion
1997-98: $1.7 billion
1998-99: $1.7 billion
1999-00: $1.7 billion
2000-01: $1.8 billion
2001-02: $1.9 billion
2002-03: $2.1 billion
2003-04: $2.4 billion
2004-05: $2.6 billion
2005-06: $3.07 billion