Cover Story: Lottery sales down - | WBTV Charlotte

Cover Story: Lottery sales down

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The bad economy is taking some of the power out of Powerball.  The North Carolina Education Lottery won't raise as much money in the current fiscal year as it did last year.

And it could be another crippling blow to the classroom.

North Carolina's Lottery is projected to bring in $40 million less than expected because of weak ticket sales.

The Powerball jackpots this year haven't been as big and enticing.  Plus, the economy is taking a toll on ticket sales.

All the school districts in the state can expect to be getting less money from the lottery, although it's too early to know how much right now.

It's another financial blow for a state education system already bracing for budget cuts.

These are the stories that win peoples' hearts. 

In Arizona, a 64-year old grandmother hit the Powerball jackpot last week claiming the $95 million grand prize.

"Speechless," she said.  "I can make so many changes not in my own life but life for other people besides my family."

But the big jackpots haven't materialized and they're what drive big interest in the lottery.

By this time last year for example Powerball had two major jackpots of more than $200 million.

Willie West runs the Rainbow Grill in north Charlotte, a business he's owned for 41 years.  It's been a profitable business flipping burgers four decades.

Five years ago when the lottery was born he thought he thought he'd make some money on it, but he didn't. 

"I was losing money every week. I lost a lot of money messing with the lottery. I wish I'd never done it," he said.

West was one of Mecklenburg's first lottery retailers.  He sent the lottery packing.  It's another reason the games aren't bringing in as much - retailer enthusiasm has fallen off.

The slowdown in the economy also hurting sales as people spend less on entertainment and pay down their debts.

"State lotteries in general always over promise and under perform."

If trends continue the North Carolina Education Lottery will bring in about $40 million less this year.

But the state is not alone of the 43 state lotteries across the U.S.A. only six are holding steady or gaining income.

In North Carolina's case, the lottery is nearly five years old and the newness may have worn off, says UNC Charlotte economist John Connaughton.

"There's this big ramp up of pent up demand that occurs in the first few years and then people start to realize how likely it is they're going to win. So consequently the demand for the product goes down," he said.

It all means less money for education at a time the state's schools need the dollars.

Will lottery revenue rebound?  Most likely say economists especially when there are diehard lottery players like Willie West.

"A man's a fool to mess with it. I tell you that, but I'm a fool," joked West.

The Lottery is cutting expenses and hopes it can make up some of what it was projected to earn by next summer by introducing some new games and building up its network of retailers.

The Lottery Commission is looking to hire a new executive director after the man brought in to launch it, Tom Shaheen, left to take another job in the lottery industry.

The commission has picked four finalists and will conduct interviews next month.

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