Big lottery games flashy, but scratch-offs pull the weight

Associated Press • Jan 23, 2013 at 8:37 AM

NASHVILLE — The high-dollar multistate lottery games Powerball and Mega Millions get the attention, but Tennessee lottery officials say the scratch-off state lottery games bring in the money.

According to The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/XzpfEV ), lottery ticket sales produced $1.3 billion in sales in the latest fiscal year, which was the eighth consecutive year of lottery sales growth in Tennessee. Scratch-off tickets have accounted for more than 80 percent of total sales 2005-2012.

The mission of the lottery is clear in the mind of Tennessee Lottery CEO Rebecca Hargrove.

“We are a corporation,” Hargrove said. “We are to act like a corporation. We’re to maximize profits because the better our profits, the more college scholarships we can fund.”

To date, the lottery has raised more than $2.5 billion education-related programs and more than 600,000 college scholarships have been funded by lottery ticket sales.

Design of the instant games considers about 15 variables. Included are colors of the scratch-offs, the prize structure and the number of tickets printed.

When a new game is introduced, it is advertised in stores and on radio stations. Lottery staffers evaluate sales quarterly in what Hargrove described as a “deep dive” analysis.

Games that sell well are reordered. Ones with disappointing sales are not. There are about 44 instant games at any given time.

Statistics from Scientific Games, which helps design Tennessee’s games, show the Tennessee lottery ranks sixth in per capita instant sales among the 44 states with lotteries.

Tennessee appears on track to sell even more tickets, halfway through the fiscal year. An economics professor who studies state lotteries said repeatedly increasing sales would buck a common trend.

Kent Grote, an economics professor at Lake Forest College in Illinois, said as lotteries age, they often experience what he called a “fatigue factor” that could challenge continued growth in Tennessee.

“I think there’s only so many people — no matter what you do — that are willing to buy tickets,” Grote said. .”.. There are people who are averse to gambling, no matter what.”

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