Floridians with dreams of instant payoffs are generating record scratch for the Florida Lottery.
Lottery revenues for the fiscal year ending June 30 are up $180 million over last year, reaching a record $5.58 billion, with two-thirds of that money via scratch-offs.
The state sold $3.7 billion in scratch-off tickets this year, compared with $3.4 billion in 2013-14. That more than offset a drop of about $120 million in Powerball, Florida Lotto and other games.
Scratch-offs accounted for 67 percent of total sales, up from 63 percent last year. Compulsive gambling experts decry that the games provide instant gratification, revealing a win or a loss within seconds rather than twice-weekly with Powerball and Florida Lotto drawings.
The scratch-off interest also increased because Powerball and Mega Millions, each played in 44 states and in U.S. territories, experienced down years due to lower jackpot runs, said Todd Northrop, founder of the national website LotteryPost.com.
"It seemed that the jackpot was hit every time it approached the $200 million, $300 million range," said Northrop, based in New Jersey. He called scratch games "a shining area in the state lotteries' financial pictures," mainly due to the rise of $20 and $30 tickets.
"These games tend to feature good payout percentages and large premium jackpots," he said. Florida offers a number of $20 scratch games that feature a $3 million top prize, and two $25 games, which feature jackpots of $5 million and $10 million.
Mike DiSarle of Tamarac stops in almost daily at News Plus in Tamarac to buy $20 and $25 Gold Rush scratch-off tickets.
"A $1, $2 or $5 scratch-off ticket might get you $50, but with a $20 to $25 ticket, you can win $400, $500," he said. "You don't win all the time, but I like them. And thank God I can afford it. I'm retired."
Scratch-offs also are just a smarter bet. They return 70 cents per dollar to buyers, with the state keeping only 30 percent to apply to education. It's 50-50 for games where players pick their own numbers (or use quick picks), such as Powerball, Mega Millions and Florida Lotto.
About $1.88 billion was spent on those games. About 7 percent of the state's sales ($375 million) are for Powerball, 6 percent on Cash 3 ($363 million), 5 percent on Florida Lotto ($301 million), Play 4 ($276 million) and Fantasy 5 ($257 million); 3 percent on Mega Millions ($147 million); and 2 percent on Lucky Money ($100 million).
South Florida certainly has that scratch-off bug, with Miami-Dade County selling about $391 million this year (up from $361 million), Palm Beach County $243 million (from $230 million) and Broward County $237 million ($220 million).