States hope for sales increase with Mega Millions craze

IN THE US, state lottery systems use that revenue to boost education, tourism, transportation, and much more. Now that the massive Mega Millions lottery jackpot has risen to over $1 billion, state officials hope that greater national interest in securing the top prize will result in more funding for their own causes. / GODOFREDO A. VASQUEZ / ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

NEW YORK (AP) — An increase in college scholarships for New Mexico students. A new bike path nestled in the western slope of Colorado. More homeless shelters in Arizona.

When lottery sales rise, players with the golden ticket are not the only ones who win. Across the US, state lottery systems use that money to boost education, tourism, transportation, and more. Now that the massive Mega Millions lottery jackpot has risen to over $1 billion, state officials hope the increased national interest will result in more funding for their own causes.

However, critics of these lottery-funded programs note that lower-income players foot the bill for benefits that they will not reap proportionately.

In South Carolina, lottery officials said 43 cents of every dollar spent directly supports the state’s education lottery account. The General Assembly then largely uses that money to fund scholarships. But the vast majority of South Carolina’s proceeds go to merit-based scholarships rather than need-based scholarships.

In New Mexico, some lawmakers and advocacy groups have criticized the lottery as a regressive source of income.

“The people who play it have disproportionately low incomes,” said Fred Nathan of the impartial policy group Think New Mexico. He has successfully lobbied for the state’s 30% minimum contribution to lottery revenue for college scholarships, but said concerns remain about the proportion of lottery grants going to children of wealthy and middle-income families.

Mega Millions is played in 45 states as well as Washington, DC and the US Virgin Islands. No one has matched the game’s six selected numbers since April. The next draw is Friday at 11 PM in Atlanta.

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On Friday, the historic jackpot attracted Bryan Byrd, 36, to buy a ticket at a gas station in Columbia, South Carolina. Byrd said he usually only plays when the pot gets that big.

His first move when he takes home the prize?

“I probably turned in my two-week notice,” Byrd said. “Hopefully I’m a winner.”

The game is coordinated by state lotteries, which generate revenues not only from Mega Millions, but also from scratch cards, Powerball and other authorized games. The proceeds are then used to pay out prizes, retailers, government funds and overheads.

The Michigan Lottery is on track to make its third consecutive annual contribution of $1 billion to the state’s school aid fund, according to player relations manager Jacob Harris, who said jackpots like this help that well. In Michigan, Harris said 28 cents for every dollar raised goes to the fund.

In Georgia, since the jackpot started growing in April, the state has raised nearly $22 million for college scholarships and pre-K programs, lottery officials say.

Oregon recently released some of its biggest daily Mega Millions draw sales, according to spokesperson Chuck Baumann. The $1.4 million and $1.2 million raised Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, accounted for the state’s eighth and tenth highest daily sales.

“Whether it’s Powerball or Mega Millions, when the jackpots get big and people play, it’s good for the state of Oregon and for the people receiving lottery dollars,” Baumann said. Over the years, voters have approved measures that direct lottery proceeds to education, parks, and veterans service funds.

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On a typical Tuesday draw in Texas, statewide sales hover around $1 million for Mega Millions tickets. Last Tuesday, they sold $20 million, according to Gary Grief, the executive director of the Texas Lottery Commission.

He expects record sales to continue. A typical Friday brings in about $5 million in sales. He expects to crack $80 million this Friday.

“As we near the end of our fiscal year, we were neck and neck with last year’s record sales rate,” Grief said of state lottery revenue. That accounted for $1.97 billion for the state’s Foundational School Fund and $23.4 million for Veterans’ Assistance. “This will push us past that.”

Ticket sales are skyrocketing in New York. In the week ending July 23, Mega Millions’ revenue exceeded $26 million, according to a report from the New York State Gaming Commission. That’s more than double the more than $12 million raised the previous week.

In Ohio, where lottery funding goes to education, lottery sales have remained largely consistent, but jackpot sales often fluctuate more than other lotteries, said Danielle Frizzi-Babb, Ohio Lottery communications director. Mega Millions jackpots are hard to predict – and this $1 billion jackpot has resulted in a sales jump that is hard to see far in advance.

“When we get to that kind of number, sales really, really, really go up,” Frizzi-Babb said. “And that’s just not something you can plan. But we’re excited when it happens.”

California had amassed more than $224 million in sales for the Mega Millions series on Thursday afternoon. The estimated amount for education was $89.6 million, according to Carolyn Becker, a spokesperson for the California State Lottery.

In fiscal 2021, California generated about $1.8 billion for all public education games, though Becker described these funds as “supplementary” given the number of school systems in the nation’s most populous state.

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“Although it pales in comparison to a school budget, we hear from school teachers, administrators, and so on that every dollar helps,” Becker said, adding that the money has been spent on teachers’ salaries, computers and band and gym equipment.

In Tennessee, recent Mega Millions ticket sales have resulted in more than $263 million that will be set aside for scholarships, grants and after-school programs.

The Tennessee Education Lottery called the ever-growing prize a “welcome development” as they’ve seen more players buying tickets for the first time in hopes of winning the prize.

Yet that hope comes as Americans experience the highest inflation in decades, leaving many with fewer dollars for entertainment. Some states are already experiencing declines in sales with their lotteries.

Iowa Lottery CEO Matt Strawn told board members in late June that higher gas and grocery sales were likely the cause of the drop in scratch-off sales, while also noting that inflation had also led to an 82% increase in the fuel budget of the United States. their staff. A lottery spokesperson said they believed an increase in Mega Millions sales will offset the reduced sales.

And even in a predicted record-breaking year in Texas, lottery proceeds — which help fund education and veterans’ aid — have been dampened somewhat due to weakening purchasing power.

“The money we’re transferring to[the Texas Education Agency]is going to buy a little less than what it bought a year ago,” Grief said.

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