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N.C. Lottery sales on target

Apr 23, 2006, 8:56 am

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North Carolina Lottery

The lucky number is $3.3 million.

That's how much the North Carolina lottery needs to generate per day to hit the target $420 million sought annually to help pay for education projects around the state, said Alice Garland, deputy director of the N.C. Education Lottery.

How's it doing so far?

Well, through Thursday, the first 22 days of the scratch-off games, the lottery had brought in $80 million, or about $3.6 million per day.

While that comes in at about $300,000 per day more than what would be needed to meet expectations, lottery officials say they're not sure if that amount will be sustained.

"We're really in uncharted territory," Garland said. "I don't know how long that will last."

Garland noted that the lottery is still new in North Carolina and there has been a lot of "pent up demand" in the state for a lottery.

The N.C. Education Lottery began March 30 with four scratch-off games. In the past week, it added more scratch-off games.

The lottery could get another bump come May 30, when North Carolina joins the big-money, multi-state Powerball game.

"They've just got the scratch-off games now and the Powerball comes May 30," said Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, who sponsored the lottery bill in the General Assembly. "They've just got a small amount of money you can win now."

If lottery revenues aren't sustained after the Powerball game emerges, and after another statewide numbers game begins in the fall, one alternative would be for the lottery commission to change marketing strategies. To do so, it might need to seek the General Assembly's permission.

That's because the state's lottery law places restrictions on lottery advertising. For example, the law says, "No advertising may have the primary purpose of inducing persons to participate in the lottery."

The kickoff TV ad for the lottery touts the benefits to education that the lottery would provide. It shows a couple sitting in a living room. The man scratches off a lottery ticket and almost immediately, a band, gymnasts and graduates suddenly come into the living room.

It doesn't tell viewers to play the lottery, but does end with, "We have a winner," implying that education in North Carolina is the winner.

In addition, the lottery law prohibits deceptive or misleading ads and bans ads presenting the lottery as a means of relieving personal financial difficulties. It also prohibits advertising that would intentionally target specific groups or economic classes.

Garland said that any such change in lottery advertising would likely be initiated by lawmakers, not by the lottery commission.

"I'm going to guess that the legislature is going to be watching our sales as closely as we are," Garland said. "If we're not meeting the targets that we're supposed to meet, then they'll figure out what can be done differently."

Owens doesn't believe there'll be any changes to the advertising restrictions.

"It was very important to a lot of people," Owens said of the restrictions. He added that some lottery supporters gave their word to legislators that there wouldn't be any aggressive lottery advertising.

"I don't see that changing," Owens said. "If everything is up and running and the money doesn't come in, then there's a concern."

Some states, such as Maryland, aggressively advertise their games. One of Maryland's lottery slogans is, "Let yourself play."

"You will never see an ad that does that," Garland said of the North Carolina lottery.

She said the restrictions provide a challenge for promoting the lottery, but that they still leave plenty or room for good marketing strategies.

So far, the North Carolina lottery has used its initial introductory ad for radio and television. But Garland said the commission plans to take out newspaper ads with the introduction of Powerball.

"Powerball may seem a little bit more complicated to people at first," she said, noting that there are a lot of different ways that players can win. "You will see us using newspaper ads for the purpose of educating players."

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