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With no jaw-dropping jackpots, Missouri lottery revenues lagging

With no jaw-dropping jackpots, Missouri lottery revenues lagging

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$96 million Powerball ticket sold in Bridgeton

Shift Manager Anna Vistorobskaya works the cash register surrounded by Missouri Lottery balloons and signage on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, at the Mobil Station in Bridgeton. The gas station, owned by Tariq Mahmood, is where a winning Powerball ticket worth $96.5 million was sold. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — A lack of eye-popping jackpots put a dent in Missouri Lottery revenue in the first five months of the fiscal year.

Since July 1, overall sales are down 3.1%, or $20.3 million, after the Powerball and Mega Millions games failed to produce the kind of jackpot that creates big, snaking lines of players hoping to cash in on a nine-figure payout.

“It is of a concern to me,” Lottery chief May Scheve told members of the state lottery commission Wednesday.

Missouri isn’t alone in feeling the pinch. Massachusetts, West Virginia and Arkansas are among states also affected by a drop-off in sales.

Scheve told members of the Lottery Commission Wednesday that many people aren’t motivated to buy tickets until they see jaw-dropping jackpots.

“Nobody wants to win $40 million anymore,” she said.

After two big jackpots last year, sales of both multistate games are down 49.1% in Missouri, which amounts to a nearly $50 million decrease in sales.

“We’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do about it,” Scheve said.

Typically, the state brings in an average of about $2.5 million per week in Powerball and Mega Millions sales. The weekly average this year is running at about $1.8 million.

The lack of jackpots is just one pressure facing the Lottery, which has a goal of transferring $323 million in revenues to help finance elementary, secondary and higher education next year, up from $306 million in 2018.

Missouri lawmakers cut the Lottery’s advertising budget by 70% in the fiscal year that began July 1. In response, the Lottery is only running television ads in the St. Louis and Kansas City markets.

Nancy Rollins, chief marketing officer at the Lottery, said the decrease in ad spending from $16 million to $5 million has made a “huge” difference in sales, especially in rural areas.

And, unregulated and untaxed slot machines have begun spreading across the state, potentially siphoning off Lottery sales as players turn their attention to video gambling.

In October, Scheve sent letters to thousands of retailers who sell Missouri Lottery tickets, warning they could face prosecution if they allow slot machines on their premises.

“Sales of games through illegal gambling devices hurts legal lottery sales and profits for public education,” Scheve wrote.

Missouri lawmakers have filed legislation that could legalize video gambling in bars, truck stops and convenience stores. They’ve also introduced bills that would ban it altogether.

The House and Senate return to action on Jan. 8.

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