Lottery Sales Up Thanks To Big Jackpots

CLEVELAND (AP) - The Ohio Lottery surpassed sales in its last fiscal year with the help of the largest-ever Super Lotto Plus jackpot and the addition of the multistate Mega Millions game.

Sales in the 12 months that ended June 30 reached nearly $2 billion, about $68 million more than the previous year.

The lottery sent $635 million to Ohio's education budget, $1.4 million more than its commitment for the year, spokesman Michael Bycko said.

By the end of June 2003, the lottery is committed to sending $637.7 million to education, Bycko said.

By law, all lottery profits go to the Ohio Department of Education, making up about 6 percent of the department's budget.

The state legislature voted last year to eliminate a rule that 30 percent of all sales go to education, leaving the amount to the discretion of lottery officials. That allowed them to offer higher payouts on games and lure more business, lottery spokeswoman Mardele Cohen said.

The lottery used to send more to education -- nearly $750 million in 1997 -- but it has stemmed a steady decline in that figure, Bycko said.

"We feel we are beginning a stabilization process," he said.

The $75 million Super Lotto Plus jackpot that was won in April spurred a sales spike that wiped out a mounting deficit in the lottery's transfers to education, the lottery reported.

Lottery officials also said they were pleased with results since kicking off Mega Millions with eight other states in mid-May.

Sales in the first four weeks of Mega Millions and Super Lotto Plus totaled about $22 million, about 25 percent more than Super Lotto Plus brought in the month before Mega Millions started, a lottery report showed.

Last week, Mega Millions' weekly sales surpassed Super Lotto Plus sales for the first time. That's due partly to the $83 million jackpot for Tuesday night's drawing -- the largest ever in Ohio.

The chance of winning the Mega Millions jackpot is 1 in 135 million, compared with 1 in 14 million for Super Lotto Plus, which stands at $4 million for Wednesday's drawing.

Lottery officials had expected Mega Millions to eat into Super Lotto plus sales. The "cannibalization" is typical after joining multistate games, Cohen said.

Declining sales in Super Lotto Plus might mean dropping the starting jackpot from $4 million to $1 million or $2 million, Cohen said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)