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Missouri Lottery funding for education falls below budget expectations

Updated: 2013-09-17T01:13:21Z

By Elizabeth Crisp

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Education funding that comes from the Missouri Lottery is about $5 million below what officials had hoped for the first three months of the budget year.

The lottery didn’t meet sales goals in June and July, the state Lottery Commission heard during a recent meeting, but sales ticked back up some in August and officials say they are optimistic about upcoming promotions aimed to drive sales.

“We are feeling very strong about our sales,” said Missouri Lottery executive director May Scheve Reardon. “We believe the second and third quarter in sales will be able to close the gap.”

Much of the interest in the lottery is driven by large jackpots – when the prizes grow, more people play.

But despite the potential for uncertainty, the state budget has grown more reliant on lottery dollars to fund public education. The state Legislature’s spending plan that went into effect July 1 is betting on the lottery to generate record sales and transfer a record $298.5 million back to the state.

To meet the Legislature’s demands, lottery officials have set monthly sales goals between $90.7 million and $104.8 million, but in each of the first two months of the fiscal year sales fell below $88 million. The two months’ transfers back to the state were 9.3 percent lower than the same months last year.

The lottery transferred $17.8 million to education in July – falling more than 23 percent below the $23.1 million goal set to meet expectations for the year. In August, the transfer increased to $22 million – still 7.5 percent less than the month’s goal.

This month, the lottery announced that it had transferred $25.8 million to the state based on sales during August. That’s nearly 8 percent higher than the $23.9 million goal for the month.

During the Lottery Commission’s meeting, officials said they see some positive growth signs in the state lottery numbers. Average purchase prices are on the rise from $3.15 last year to $3.40. The goal is to hit $3.60.

The Legislature gave the Missouri Lottery $4 million more this year for advertising efforts. The lottery also is rolling out play-at-the-pump and ATM purchases in some test markets, which officials say will increase sales. Meanwhile, promotional events have been held across the state this summer.

The Lottery Commission heard of other upcoming efforts that are intended to drive sales, including a plan to publicize the new Ghostbusters scratcher during the Taste of St. Louis event with help from the St. Louis Ghostbusters Club.

Missouri also will be the first state to roll out a new Duck Dynasty-themed scratcher. Reardon said some convenience stores already have expressed interest in hosting Duck Dynasty-themed events to launch the new game.

© 2013 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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