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Penn. Lottery declares 1st raffle a success

Jan 9, 2006, 7:30 am

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Pennsylvania Lottery

State lotteries are beginning to learn from the success of El Gordo, a raffle-style game, which is one of the most popular lottery games in the world.

The Pennsylvania Lottery had a Merry Christmas — again.

But this time, aside from the usual seasonal sales peak in instant tickets, thousands of players also took a $20 chance to get in the Lottery's first-ever raffle game: a one-time drawing for a declared set of prizes, with winning numbers drawn specifically from the field of tickets sold.

Some $4.3 million in profits later, Lottery officials say it couldn't have been a bigger success, and it now appears only a matter of time until they do it again.

The "Millionaire Raffle" featured four top prizes of $1 million, and five second prizes of $100,000 each, all drawn on New Year's Eve. Add in the 500 additional $1,000 winners, and the game featured the best odds the Lottery has ever offered for prizes of such magnitude.

Tickets went on sale Nov. 22, as part of the Lottery's Christmas season product mix. "There's no question our other products are popular this time of year, and we thought players would have a good time with this," executive director Ed Mahlman said.

Response to the raffle, limited to 500,000 tickets, exceeded all expectations. The game sold out by Dec. 5.

"For the first three or four days [after the game was introduced], all I sold was those tickets," said Samir Halabi, owner of the NS Deli Market on West Willow Street in Carlisle. "Everybody wanted that."

"We still have people asking if they're going to do it again," said Bob Rudy, who sells tickets to the state games from the Cue-Nique Lottery II booth at Strawberry Square in downtown Harrisburg.

The short answer to that is "yes," though as of last Friday, Lottery officials weren't ready to say precisely when.

"We're assessing our next steps right now... But given the great player response, it's likely that we'll have another raffle," and possibly even before Christmas 2006, Mahlman said.

Future raffles could have a different prize structure, ticket prices or player field, he noted. "But this was good for the Lottery, good for the older citizens who benefit from Lottery proceeds, and a nice new addition to our lineup of games for our players," Mahlman added.

It was especially good in Adams County, where Rosie's Restaurant in New Oxford sold one of the four millionaire tickets. The bearer of that ticket had not appeared at Lottery headquarters as of Friday to claim his or her prize.

In all, the Lottery cleared $4.3 million from the raffle's $10 million in sales, after accounting for the $5 million in prizes and $700,000 in vendor commissions and other costs.

Based on preliminary numbers, state Department of Revenue sources add, the raffle proceeds appeared to be new money, and not a redirection of Christmas season instant game sales.

Stephanie Weyant, a deputy press secretary for Revenue, noted weekly instant ticket sales were up from 2004 levels for each week of the 2005 Christmas season (the last six weeks of the year), and showed a gain of 15.5 percent, or $26.5 million, for the period as a whole.

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