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Despite rain, N.C. lottery has a sunny start

Apr 5, 2006, 7:36 am

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North Carolina Lottery

Receipts for 1st 5 days barely miss director's goal of $25 million

A thunderstorm Monday might have stymied the N.C. Education Lottery leader's personal goal of selling $25 million worth of tickets in the games' first five days.

"I'm looking for any excuse," joked lottery director Tom Shaheen on Tuesday. "The only one I can come up with is all that rain we got."

Despite the raindrops, the state's new lottery had $24.03 million in sales through Monday, making it one of the more successful gaming startups, Shaheen said during a teleconference.

Tennessee's lottery, launched in 2004, sold $41.27 million in tickets in its first seven days.

Sales have been brisk enough that Shaheen will likely introduce two new instant winner scratch-off games on April 13, he said. The tickets have already been printed and are stacked in a Raleigh warehouse.

The N.C. lottery sales figures are rough estimates, since the approximately 5,000 lottery retailers cannot track the sale of each scratch-off ticket. Lottery officials guess sales figures based on the number of prizes claimed and reports that come in when retailers have sold complete ticket packs, valued at $300 each.

Based on those estimates, the lottery's $1 tickets with scenes of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse and other state icons have proven the most popular — with about 5.6 million tickets sold. The $5-per-ticket Carolina Cash game has brought in the most money, providing about $7.5 million in sales.

So far, strong N.C. sales haven't damaged lottery fortunes in the Palmetto State, S.C. Education Lottery director Ernie Passailaigue said Tuesday.

"I think there's a little erosion (in sales), but not as much as I thought there might be," said Passailaigue, who visited retailers near the N.C.-S.C. border last week.

South Carolina's lottery sold $19 million to $20 million tickets a week in early 2002 during the first weeks of that state's lottery games, Passailaigue said.

Right now, sales of N.C. tickets are getting a boost from people who are curious about the games, Passailaigue said. At the same time, S.C. sales figures could be inflated because the multi-state Powerball jackpot is nearing $200 million. (North Carolina won't sell Powerball tickets until May.)

Sales will eventually settle, he said, meaning ticket sales in both Carolinas could take a hit.

"There are only so many lottery dollars to go around," he said.

Ticket Sales

Lottery tickets with four symbolic N.C. scenes are the most popular in the games' first week, but tickets with a $100,000 prize have brought in the most money.

Game  Total Sales (in millions) Prizes Paid (in millions) Tickets Sold (in millions) 
$100,000 Carolina Cash ($5 ticket) $7.487 $3.988 1.497 
Blackjack ($2 ticket) $5.759 $2.614 2.879 
Tic Tac Toe ($1 ticket) $5.137  $2.067 5.137 
N.C. Education Lottery Scenes ($1 ticket) $5.647 $2.795 5.647 

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