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Florida's Lottery Habit Spikes Above $5.3 Billion

July 7, 2014 - 6:00pm

Floridians' obsession with lucky numbers and scratch-off tickets continues to grow.

Even without a massive Powerball or Mega Millions rollover jackpot to spur sales, the Florida Lottery reported $5.36 billion in sales for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The record-setting mark, up from just over $5 billion a year earlier, comes as state lawmakers have deferred action on questions about the future of gambling -- such as whether to allow mega-casinos to open -- while Gov. Rick Scott tries to strike a new deal with the Seminole Tribe.

Lottery officials prefer to stay away from those talks, focusing on the state agency's mission to raise money for education.

While about 60 percent of the money played on games is paid out to winners, about $1.49 billion will go to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund this year, lottery spokeswoman Meagan Dougherty said in an email.

The education funding is up from $1.41 billion generated during the previous fiscal year.

"Any decisions regarding casinos will be made by the Florida Legislature based on what they determine is best for Florida," Dougherty said in an email. "Regardless of what is decided, the lottery will continue to do all it can to ensure that its games and promotions are fun and appealing to as many players as possible, and that we do all we can to remain among the most successful lotteries nationwide."

Scott is renegotiating a portion of a gambling compact, signed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010, that gave the Seminole Tribe "exclusive" rights to blackjack at seven of its Florida locations in exchange for a minimum of $1 billion over five years. That part of the 2010 deal expires on Aug. 1, 2015. The Seminoles have so far exceeded their minimum payments to the state.

But the talks have gone quiet since Scott this spring considered a proposal to allow the Seminoles to open more casinos. That proposal didn't receive favorable reaction from lawmakers as the 2014 legislative session came to a close. Now, no action is expected on the compact until after the November elections.

A spokesman for the governor's office said this week that there was nothing new to report on the talks.

Meanwhile, the lottery rolls on, with the increased revenues stemming largely from continued growth in scratch-off ticket sales, which range in price from $1 to $25 and are now available at more than 13,000 locations throughout the state.

The $25-per-ticket game topped all scratch-off sales last year, averaging $13 million per week.

Lottery Deputy Secretary of Sales Tom Delacenserie credited the success to the availability and creative marketing of all the games, along with new offerings such as Lucky Lines, a new terminal game that this month replaced Mega Money.

"It starts with a great product line," he said. "Secondly we support that product line with advertising and media."

Sales of scratch-off tickets grew by 12.7 percent in the past year, bringing in $3.4 billion.

The overall totals could have been higher if there had been a lucky number jackpot in any of the terminal games: Mega Money, Florida Lotto, Powerball and Mega Millions.

"If we have a $600 million jackpot or $550 million jackpot, we just get out of the way and the sales take off," Delacenserie said. "Last year we didn't get up that high."

Powerball, which did have jackpots reach $400 million three times last year, generated $469 million for the state. Mega Millions, which was introduced in May 2013, totaled $167 million for the year, while Lotto brought in $349 million.

To help sales, the lottery annually spends between $28 million and $30 million on advertising.

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