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Scratch-offs bring big cash to states

Jan 20, 2004, 6:29 am

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Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: Scratch-offs bring big cash to states

Scratch-off lottery tickets may not produce the drama associated with high-jackpot games like Powerball or Mega Millions, but to most state lotteries they bring in something just as important: money.

Lotteries across the country typically make more from scratch-off tickets than either multistate or state online games - the pingpong ball drawings of numbers that offer the larger prizes, according to several lottery officials.

"In most states across the country they sell far more instant tickets than they do of any other single game,'' said Tennessee Lottery chief Rebecca Paul, who previously served in the same role in Georgia, Florida and Illinois and for two years as president of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

For example, in South Carolina - which began its lottery two years ago - scratch-off tickets account for approximately 67 percent of all lottery sales, spokeswoman Tara Robertson said. In 2003, that was equal to $262 million of the $492 million brought in that year, according to unaudited revenue numbers supplied by the lottery.

Powerball tickets brought in the second-highest amount of money at $138 million, the South Carolina statistics showed.

"Instants are the bread and butter of our sales,'' Robertson said.

They "are extremely popular with lottery players because of the variety of games, play styles, prizes and ways to win, as well as ... the instant nature of winning.''

When Tennessee kicks off its own lottery today - with proceeds going to college scholarships for state students - players will be able to choose between four types of scratch-off games that cost between $1 and $5 and award prizes of up to $1 million.

Two weeks later four more games will be introduced, with two more debuting every two weeks after that. Participating businesses dventually will offer between 20 and 30 scratch-off games at their stores at any given time, Paul said.

Last year in Georgia, lottery officials introduced 68 different scratch-off games, some of which were designed to be sold for as few as six weeks - such as holiday-themed tickets - while others had a longer shelf life, she said.

"We introduced a game in Georgia in 1993 that's still on sale today because it's so popular with the players,'' Paul said.

Scratch-off tickets typically account for between 40 percent and 50 percent of total revenue for the Georgia Lottery, the largest chunk of money the games receive, spokesman J.B. Landroche said. In 2003, scratch-offs accounted for 43 percent of sales, he said.

Tennessee's online games are scheduled to begin in March, and the state is expected to join either Powerball or Mega Millions by summer.

In the meantime, revenue generated from the scratch-off games will be particularly important to lottery officials, who are charged with raising at least $88 million by July 1 to fund awards for an estimated 65,000 students.

State Sen. Steve Cohen, chief sponsor of the lottery legislation in the General Assembly, believes the state will easily meet that goal. He estimates the lottery will bring in at least $300 million in its first year.

"I've ratcheted back a bit to be conservative and give myself some breathing (room), but I think we're going to do even greater,'' he said.


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