Oklahoma Lottery sales hurt by lagging economy

AP News
Posted: Dec 09, 2009 10:15 AM

Lottery ticket sales declined about $11.3 million in the past fiscal year, mainly because of a downturn in the economy, Oklahoma officials said.

Powerball sales, which make up the majority of lottery sales, tumbled an estimated $7.6 million, partly because of the economy and a lack of significant jackpots, Jim Scroggins, executive director of the Oklahoma Lottery Commission, said Tuesday.

The Oklahoma Lottery is expected to contribute $66.7 million to public education for the 2010 fiscal year, down from $69.2 million for 2009, according to figures released at quarterly meeting. Total product sales, including the Powerball, Hot Lotto and other games, are projected to reach $190.5 million this fiscal year, down from $193.1 million for the previous fiscal year.

Oklahoma ticket sales also are being affected by the new Arkansas lottery, which began offering scratch-off tickets on Sept. 28 and Powerball on Oct. 31. Powerball sales in five Oklahoma counties bordering Arkansas have declined 40 percent to 50 percent in the past six weeks. Scroggins said.

"Is the decrease in sales comparable with other states?" board member George Charlton asked. "Is it possible that Arkansas will not affect us as much?"

Scroggins said he couldn't predict whether Arkansas Powerball sales of the past several weeks would be similar throughout the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

While Powerball sales are lagging, Hot Lotto and scratch-off game sales are ahead of this year's projections by $1.5 million and $4 million, respectively, Scroggins said.

The agency is trying to reach potential lottery players through social media Web sites like Facebook and Twitter, Scroggins said. People can go to those sites and find new ticket launches, game winners and other announcements, he said.

Scroggins also said the Mega Millions will be launched Jan. 31 in Oklahoma.

In October, the consortium behind Mega Millions and the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs Powerball, agreed to cross-sell tickets for both games.

Powerball is played in Oklahoma, 31 other states and Washington, D.C., while Mega Millions is played in 12 of the country's largest states, like New York and Texas.

A few board members questioned whether the Mega Millions would have an adverse effect on the already struggling Powerball sales.

"From a defensive standpoint, Arkansas is doing Powerball and will do Mega Millions. Texas is doing Mega Millions and will see Powerball. If you're surrounded by states that are selling Powerball and Mega Millions, you better get on board," Scroggins said.