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Politics

Dip in Gas Prices Pumping Increase in Florida Lotto

September 25, 2011 - 6:00pm

More people are buying Florida lottery tickets as gas prices dip.

And for Florida, that means twice as much money is projected to be on hand in the education pool when the current fiscal year ends.

The states Office of Economic and Demographic Research on Monday released numbers showing there will be $109.5 million on hand in the Education

Enhancement Trust Fund when the current fiscal year ends July 1, 2012.

Projections made two months ago placed the states rollover at $50 million.

With the new projections, the amount expected to be available this fiscal year for education climbs from $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion.

Amy Baker, head of the state's Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said a big reason for the change is that players are again buying lottery tickets, scratch-off tickets and the daily and weekly random drawings.

During the recession, we had noticed, particularly in the lottery, when gas prices were real high, that people were not buying quite as many tickets as they normally do, Baker said. Even though things arent back to normal, theyre just better enough that people are starting to spend on lottery tickets.

There seems to be a pretty big link with the gas stations where people buy their lottery tickets.

Gas prices rose from a state average of $2.689 a gallon a year ago to $3.562 a little more than a month ago. However, with declining demand for fuel and global economic doldrums, the average in Florida has dipped to $3.470, according to AAA Florida.

The state's updated projection also anticipates a growth in play due to changes in the multi-state Powerball.

Starting Jan. 15, Powerball will up the starting jackpot from $20 million to $40 million, increasing the second place prize to $1 million, and reducing the group of numbers in the Powerball pool from 39 to 35, slightly improving the odds. The change comes with a price: each ticket will cost $2, or $3 if you add Power Play, up from $1 and $2 respectively.

Approved by voters in 1986, the Florida lottery has generated $22 billion for schools, including $1.5 billion for Bright Futures scholarships. The state joined Powerball in January 2009.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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