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Sunday, September 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Idaho’s dividend from state lottery decreases

Idaho’s take from the state lottery has declined for the first time in 11 years.

But it still provided a $45 million boost to the state’s spending on schools and public buildings, down from last year’s $49 million dividend.

Gov. Butch Otter said Tuesday there are “no guarantees” with a lottery.

“We don’t want people spending their lunch money on a lottery ticket. Everyone has their reasons why they buy a lottery ticket,” he said. He noted that personally, he usually waits until the jackpot hits “around $200 million.”

That goes to the heart of why the Idaho Lottery’s profits are down this year – two big national multistate lottery games, Powerball and Mega Millions, have seen big drops in sales over the past year because of a long run of smaller jackpots, in the $40 million to $60 million range, rather than the attention-grabbing hundreds of millions.

“It’s pretty much the same everywhere – everybody’s down 20 percent,” said Jeff Anderson, Idaho Lottery director.

Yet, Idaho’s total lottery sales for the past year were actually up slightly, at $211 million, up 1 percent from last year’s $208.9 million.

Out of the state’s dividend, public schools will get $28 million – $11 million of that for the school district bond levy equalization fund, and $17 million that goes to the state Department of Education for new roofs and other needs at Idaho schools – and $17 million goes to the state’s Permanent Building Fund.

Anderson said because of Idaho’s mix of games, including the introduction of two new ones and various themes and marketing campaigns for its scratch tickets, the state was down $10 million from Powerball and Mega Millions, but still up 1 percent overall in sales.

Powerball recently announced changes in its odds designed to address the lagging sales; they’ll go into effect in October. Anderson, who is currently president of the Multi-State Lottery Association, said those changes had to happen. The lag, he said, came because several large states, including California, joined Powerball since it last adjusted its matrix in 2010. With so many more players, combinations of numbers were hit more often, resulting in jackpots being hit more frequently – before they had a chance to build up to be really big.

The changes will increase the odds of winning any prize, but decrease the odds of hitting the jackpot – which should have the effect of delaying the big-jackpot hits and allowing them more time to grow. Overall, the chances of winning any prize will improve from about 1 in 32 to 1 in 25.

Idaho had eight jackpot winners in the just-concluded fiscal year, including seven who won in Idaho-only games, Anderson said. “There were five new millionaires and 11 players who won more than a quarter-million dollars.”

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