By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Adding a multistate game to Ohio's lottery seems to be having the desired effect of state officials who authorized it -- increased sales and profits.
Compared with the same period a year ago, ticket sales were up 8.3 percent, and profits increased $7.1 million in the one month since the Ohio Lottery added Mega Millions.
"We're definitely up in those areas because of the addition," lottery spokesman Dan Price said Tuesday. "There's no question about it."
Gov. Bob Taft and state lawmakers approved Ohio's participation in a multistate game in December to generate revenue to help patch a $1.5 billion deficit. The state hopes to raise about $41 million a year from Mega Millions sales.
A coalition of church groups and antigambling activists has sued the state over its decision to join the multistate game, arguing that the Ohio Constitution permits only a lottery run exclusively by Ohio with no involvement by other states.
Eight other states -- Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Virginia -- are part of Mega Millions. The state of Washington expects to join in September.
The first Mega Millions ticket was sold in Ohio on May 15.
Through Friday, the Ohio Lottery sold $22.7 million in tickets for both Mega Millions and Super Lotto Plus. That's a $1.7 million increase over the $21 million in sales the state saw during the same period last year, when Super Lotto Plus was the only lotto game available.
During the first month of Mega Millions, the state collected $168.4 million in profits compared with $161.3 million during the same five weeks of 2001. By law, all lottery profits go to the Ohio
Department of Education, making up about 6 percent of the department's budget.
With the start of Mega Millions, Super Lotto Plus sales declined 18.2 percent compared with the previous month, but the game still managed to outsell the new multistate lottery.
Super Lotto Plus had $13.4 million in sales, while Mega Millions recorded $9.3 million in sales.
Lottery officials say they are not concerned that Mega Millions is lagging behind the older game, because it takes time for a new game to become popular.
Price said Super Lotto Plus has a loyal customer base and lower odds than Mega Millions.
The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are one in 135 million, compared to one in 14 million for Super Lotto Plus.
It is too early to tell if the multistate lottery is successful in Ohio, said David Zanotti, president of the Ohio Roundtable, a public advocacy group that's part of the coalition fighting Mega Millions.
"Our primary concern is and remains the great government rip-off of the whole process and the economic lie that gambling profits are going to be a real revenue for the state," Zanotti said.
Meanwhile, a committee formed to study gambling's impact in Ohio concluded Tuesday that a thorough economic analysis is needed to determine whether the state would benefit from placing electronic slot machines at Ohio's seven racetracks.
"To accept an increase in the social costs of problem gambling for little or no increase in Ohio income would not be appropriate," a draft report reviewed by the committee said.