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Lottery buffs fear impact on Lotto Texas

Texas LotteryTexas Lottery: Lottery buffs fear impact on Lotto Texas

There's a new buzzword these days at the Texas Lottery Commission: cannibalization.

It's being used to describe how much the new Mega Millions multi-state lottery will eat away at the sales of the 11-year-old favorite, Lotto Texas.

For the first time Wednesday, people will be able to buy a chance at the Mega Millions jackpot in Texas.

"There are people out there ready to step up first thing in the morning, people that are motivated by high jackpots," said Reagan Greer, executive director of the commission.

The jackpot in the multi-state Mega Millions lottery grew to an estimated $44 million Wednesday. None of the tickets sold for Tuesday night's $33 million drawing matched all five lotto numbers and the Mega Ball. That enables Texans to compete in an even greater jackpot Friday.

But, Greer is concerned that Texans will be so excited by the new lavish jackpots, Lotto Texas could suffer.

"For a lot of people, Lotto Texas is the Texas lottery," Greer said.

Initial estimates have predicted a 21 percent shift away from Lotto Texas and into Mega Millions. But Greer said he's committed to watching the numbers and maintaining the health of Lotto Texas.

"Mega Millions is going to kill (Lotto Texas)," said Dawn Nettles, publisher of the lottery watchdog Lottoreport.com. "It's already dying, this is going to absolutely kill it completely and totally. And it's going to hurt the other games."

Nettles said that lottery players in Texas just want a "reasonable chance to win" rather than huge jackpots.

"There is no reasonable chance to win in Lotto Texas now, nor is there a reasonable chance to win Mega Millions," Nettles said.

The odds of winning in Mega Millions are 1 in 43, with jackpot odds 1 in about 135 million.

If Lotto Texas sales begin to dwindle much more than 21 percent, Greer said he is prepared to take "proactive" steps to protect the flagship game. Some of those steps could include changing the bonus ball feature, changing the way the game is played or possible changes to the newer Texas Two Step game, which is played on the same nights as Mega Millions.

Mega Millions jackpots start at $10 million and have averaged $42.3 million over the past year. Lottery officials in Texas and 10 other states that participate anticipate a much larger bank.

The Texas Lottery Commission estimates a five-year-average of $121.6 million in net revenue from Mega Millions.

Last year, $888 million from all lottery sales in Texas was transferred to the Texas Foundation School Fund. Lottery officials estimate that Mega Millions will generate an additional $92 million for the fund by the end of this fiscal year, which ends Aug. 31.

"The Texas Lottery has the potential again to be delivering over a billion dollars to the Foundation School Fund and that's a positive thing," Greer said.

Texas joins Virginia, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Washington in Mega Millions drawings. Multistate lottery games like Mega Millions and Powerball are designed to generate jackpots into the hundreds of millions of dollars, creating a frenzy of ticket purchases across the country. Participating states get a cut of the tickets sold within their borders.

In Texas, the lottery commission last week launched an advertising campaign, complete with 59 billboards, aimed at getting Texans excited about Mega Millions. Television and radio spots targeting holiday shoppers also have been airing.

John Eddik, owner of Joe's Quickstop in Harlingen said he expected to see all his regular lottery customers, this time buying more.

"It's a new game to these people, they'll get hooked," he said, adding that his store was the top seller of lottery tickets in Harlingen. He said big jackpots bring crowds.

Mega Million drawings are Tuesdays and Fridays, and tickets will cost $1. Second prize is $175,000, and there are seven additional prize categories.

Texans will be able to multiply their prizes, not including the jackpot, by purchasing a "megaplier" number for a dollar. The megaplier could double, triple or quadruple winnings.

Texas statisticians estimate the Mega Millions jackpot would reach $100 million four times a year. The jackpot could reach $400 million every two to three years.

AP

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