The Vermont lottery is 31 years old this year. Lottery revenues — after expenses — have grown substantially since its early days. But right now the recession is cutting into those revenues.
Back in 1978 the Vermont lottery generated just $1.7 million. That number had grown to $102 million as of last year. But like everything else, lottery revenues are down this year.
At The Middle Road Market in Milton, the customers are well familiar with the lottery games. The owners, state representative Ron Hubert and his wife, have been in business for 21 years and can show a track record of winning tickets purchased here over the years. Hubert asked a customer who did not know about the new game, "Do you want the Megabucks or do you want the new Hot Lotto Sizzler game?" The customer chose both.
Wednesday night's drawing was the first Hot Lotto drawing that included Vermont. It's an effort to boost sagging lottery revenues. All of the profits after prize payouts and expenses are designated for the state education fund.
In 2006, total Vermont lottery revenues hit a record of nearly $105 million — and held steady in 2007. But by 2008 lottery revenues had dropped by $3 million, to $102 million. It meant that profits after expenses that go to the education fund went down by about $2 million last year.
Lottery officials hope the new game will help the education fund. Hot Lotto is modeled after Powerball, but has lower tier prizes with somewhat better odds of winning than either Powerball or Tri-State Megabucks. Like Powerball, the Hot Lotto offers a bonus for a second dollar that triples non-jackpot prizes. Since the game is already played in twelve other states, the jackpot stands at $11 million.
"Any time you get a double digit jackpot, people are always more interested in winning that prize than they are in the smaller jackpots," Hubert said. "The fact that it has fewer numbers than the other two games, I think is a plus once people look at that."
The question is how badly will the recession cut into lottery sales, and therefore hurt education fund revenues? The owner notes that when you see people paying with coins instead of bills, that times are getting tough.
Hot Lotto drawings are Wednesday and Saturday nights at 10 p.m. Unlike the Powerball drawings in which drums of tumbling lottery balls are used to extract the winning numbers, Hot Lotto uses computerized drawing system that uses a random number generator (RNG) to produce the winning numbers.