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Missouri Lottery sales drop amid coronavirus response

Missouri Lottery sales drop amid coronavirus response

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Missouri Lottery

Victor Patel processes lottery tickets in his Gateway Newstands store in Union Station on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014, where a $202 million winning Powerball ticket was sold. Patel was awarded $50,000 as owner of the store where the winning ticket was sold. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — With Missouri already losing tax revenue from the shutdown of the state’s casinos, sales of lottery tickets have taken a nosedive as people stay home amid a pandemic.

According to a weekly sales update obtained by the Post-Dispatch, overall sales dropped by 11% this week compared with a similar period last week. Scratch-off ticket sales have dropped 9% and lottery draw games are down 11%.

For the lottery, that amounts to a total sales drop of more than $1.7 million.

After subtracting operational costs, lottery funds go to help pay for public education in Missouri. In 2019, the lottery funneled $346 million to schools, representing about 4% of the total funding for elementary, secondary and higher education.

The potential drop in revenue represents one more challenge for state budget writers, who must send a spending plan to Gov. Mike Parson by May 8.

The House had been poised to approve its version of the budget this week, paving the way for the Senate to start on its draft.

But the House scrapped the idea because the coronavirus outbreak is likely to result in a drop in tax revenue as people lose their jobs and spend less because they are practicing social distancing.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, said the House couldn’t be sure of revenue or where the state might need to spend money to deal with the response. Waiting until closer to the May 8 deadline could help lawmakers craft a more realist spending blueprint.

“The situation is too fluid,” Haahr said.

It’s not clear when the House or Senate will return to action. Both chambers are on a spring break that is scheduled to last until March 30, but could be extended pending the status of the outbreak.

In addition to the loss of lottery proceeds, the state is losing about $1 million a day it typically receives from people who gamble at the state’s 13 casinos.

At the beginning of the budgeting process, Parson based his $30.9 billion spending proposal on a growth in tax revenue of 1.9% in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Depending on the severity and length of the pandemic in the U.S., that growth might instead be a loss.

Parson acknowledged the downturn and said he and legislative leaders are going to have to “rethink” the budget.

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