Lottery sales increase $100 million from previous year
Revenue from the Georgia Lottery increased more than $100 million in the year ending June 30 - the ninth sales record since the games began in 1993.
Officials said the lottery, which funds the HOPE scholarships and other educational programs, had sales of $2.71 billion last fiscal year, up 4 percent from the $2.6 billion the previous year.
The proceeds yielded $782 million for HOPE and pre-kindergarten programs, a $31 million increase from the $751 million that went to the fund the year before.
There was a debate during this year's General Assembly whether to trim HOPE benefits because of fears lottery revenue would slow.
Legislators rejected dramatic cuts for scholarship recipients, but they did toughen the academic standard needed to qualify for HOPE and established a system to reduce future benefits if and when lottery revenue declines.
"Fortunately, Little Red Riding Hood continues to evade the big bad wolves trying to cut HOPE," said Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, who led opposition to cut HOPE benefits.
Sales in the lottery's instant ticket games led the increase in revenue - $70 million, from $1.486 billion to $1.556 billion.
The huge jackpots of multistate, big-money games such as Mega Millions, which yielded a $294 million grand prize July 2, helped drive up sales.
David Gale, executive director of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, said Georgia Lottery officials have done a good job of introducing new games while maintaining existing ones that are popular with players.
Margaret DeFrancisco, president of the Georgia Lottery Corp., said the lottery has about 80 instant ticket games at a time, and a couple of new ones are introduced every few weeks, keeping the games fresh with players who look favorably on the proceeds going toward education.
"The cause is so clear. The programs have directly impacted 16 percent of the population of Georgia," DeFrancisco said.