The sour economy isn't stopping some big-spending Texans from plopping down $50 for a single lottery ticket.
Texas was the first state to offer a $50 scratch-off game, and they remain a big hit, according to Robert Heith, director of media relations for the Texas Lottery Commission.
The motivation to launch a higher-priced game was to help generate money for cash-strapped programs such as education — which receives a large portion of funds collected.
Scratch-off games have steadily increased in variety and price since being introduced in Texas in 1992.The typical $1 and $5 tickets were joined by games costing $25.The first $50 game was introduced in 2007.
"When our staff looks at introducing any game, we look at a number of things," Heith said. "No. 1 is will it generate revenue for the state of Texas?"
But just who buys the $50 tickets? Lee and Frank Lanphear, twin brothers from Tuscola, to name two. They say the scratching is half the fun.
"I've never seen a winner," Lee Lanphear said. "We bought three in a row one day, and didn't hit anything."
Store employees like Billy Moore, who manages the Shell gas station on South 1st Street, said the high price doesn't deter some customers from purchasing the tickets. On average, he sells two or three per day.
"It's usually the same customers that buy them. Some days we sell more than others. They aren't our best seller, but we do sell them," Moore said.
Heith said focus groups are formed to study what appeals to the consumer.
"It has done really well," Heith said, "Coupled with high Mega Millions jackpots, it has had a big impact on revenue and our fiscal years."
Total lottery sales for fiscal year 2008 were $3.67 billion. Fiscal year 2009 saw a slight increase at $3.72 billion. Scratch-off sales accounted for $2.79 billion, making it the state's most lucrative game format.
The $50 game, $140,000,000 Extreme Payoff, is named for the total amount in prizes that can be won, assuming the game's approximately 3.75 million tickets get scratched and redeemed.
According to Heith, of the three top prizes of $10 million, only one has been claimed.
Heith said lottery players across the state can look online at the Texas Lottery Web site to see whether the top prizes have been claimed for their favorite games.
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