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Lottery bucks national trend with $3.72B in sales

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Heith said this fiscal year's robust sales are not as mystifying as some might imagine in the midst of an economic recession. The explanation might even be rational.

"As jackpots increase, so do sales," he said.

Texas Lottery sales figures stand in stark contrast to some other states, however.

Many states - California, Florida, Indiana, Iowa and Kansas, to name a few - have seen declines in lottery sales. Sales in the North Dakota Lottery's four games have seen a 4 percent drop, to $21.7 million, in the last two years. Profits there for 2009 dropped 15 percent, to $5.78 million. And in Oregon, the forecast is for a $43 million decline in state lottery revenues for the current budget.

However, like Texas, some states are seeing lottery sales increases. Maryland recorded its 12th consecutive year of record sales. Although the 1.5 percent increase for 2009 is not as high as in previous years, it is still an increase. And in Michigan, officials report a near record pace for lottery sales, with more than $2 billion in sales for the year.

Heith said he doesn't know that it's fair to compare sales on a state-to-state ratio.

"Different lotteries have different fiscal years, so there may be some variations in comparing apples to apples."

On Sept. 28, Arkansas will become the latest state to test the lottery waters. A Little Rock distribution center this week was the site of a ceremony marking the arrival of the state's first scratch-off tickets. State officials are hoping for revenues of $100 to $300 million from annual sales.

Texas' stellar Lottery sales mark good news for the Foundation School Fund, which will reap $1 billion from Lottery sales this year.

"We've been fortunate to obtain the $1 billion mark; last year we fell a little short," Heith said. "We take our obligation to the school fund very seriously."

As Lottery officials and retailers continue to push for innovative and exciting games to boost sales, they have met with some resistance. The proposed EZ Match game - which the Texas Lottery Commission could take up as soon as Oct. 2 - has drawn ire from critics who contend the game is too similar to slot machines. Players would hand their money to a clerk in return for an instant ticket printed from a lottery terminal. Heith said there are no new developments in the works for the controversial game.

Meanwhile, the Lottery Commission is still without an executive director following the death of Anthony Sadberry last October. Heith said the position has not been posted.