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N.J. Lottery revenue tops $2 billion for second straight year

Sep 4, 2003, 3:32 am

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New Jersey LotteryNew Jersey Lottery sales topped the $2 billion mark for the second consecutive year even though sales of tickets for both the Pick 6 Lotto and Lotzee games dropped significantly.

The lottery, which is New Jersey's fourth-largest revenue producer, brought in $764 million to state coffers in the fiscal year that ended in June. That was an increase of $10 million over the previous year.

The biggest sales gains last year were registered for the state's instant games, which increased by 16.5 percent to more than $900 million.

The lottery runs up to 40 instant games at a time. They feature themes such as blackjack, crossword puzzles and classic television shows, such as "I Love Lucy." The game cards cost from $1 to $10 to play.


"People like the entertainment factor of our games," lottery director Virginia Bauer said. "Obviously, people want to win. That's the main purpose of buying a ticket."

The lottery also has been trying higher-stakes instant games, such as All the Marbles, which has four $150,000 winners, and Super Diamond Progressive Slots, with three winning tickets worth $163,760 apiece.

Those sell for $5 and $10, respectively, a considerable premium over the normal $1 to $3 for games with top prizes between $5,000 and $50,000.

"We've done a good job of marketing the right products," said Lottery Director Virginia S. Bauer.

She attributed the nearly $63 million decrease in sales for Pick 6 Lotto to having 16 winners last year, which prdvented a buildup of the big jackpots that draw long lines of more casual players.

The multistate game Mega Millions and its large jackpots had more than $229 million in sales in New Jersey, compared to $127 million for Pick 6.

Bauer said Lotzee never caught on with players in New Jersey, and sales for the game fell to $16 million.

Sales for Jersey Cash 5 also fell, by 9.1 percent, while Pick 3 increased by 2.5 percent to $468 million and Pick 4 went up by 4 percent to $266 million.


New Jersey's lottery revenue in fiscal 2003, which ended in June, ranked sdventh in the nation behind New York, Massachusetts, Texas, California, Georgia and Florida. An average of more than $240 a year per person was spent on lottery games in New Jersey in fiscal 2003, double the national average of states that have lotteries, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

Despite the big growth in instant games, the New Jersey Lottery's traditional games - involving drawings such as Pick Three and Pick Six - surpass them in revenue. The multistate Mega Millions is another big cash generator for the state.

Sundel Judson of Cliffside Park won the biggest jackpot in state history in July 2002, when he hit a $165 million Mega Millions payout.

Big wins such as that and the temptation of big jackpots are great advertising for the lottery.

"People who never buy a ticket jump in," Bauer said. "You hope that somebody who can use the money, and it's life-changing at that point, will benefit from that."

About 36 percent of the lottery's revenue is given to state government - $764 million in fiscal 2003 - making it the state's fourth-largest revenue generator, after the income, sales and corporation business taxes. The fiscal 2004 state budget projects $783 million from the lottery.

Revenue from the lottery goes toward education, human services and veterans programs. The 6,000 retailers who sell the tickets earned $113 million in commissions last year.


Nearly 57 percent of revenue is paid out to players, more than 5 percent goes to retailers for commissions, and about 1 percent goes to running the lottery.

Bauer, who took over as director of the agency in the spring, said she intends to implement changes that keep the lottery growing.

"I'm not afraid to reinvent the wheel a little bit," Bauer said.

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