By Colleen Quinn
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE — The Massachusetts Lottery’s most expensive instant ticket, priced at $30, is the biggest success of its kind in the industry, beating nine other states that also introduced instant tickets at the same price this year, according to lottery officials.
People vying for a shot at the $15 million top prize have pushed “World Class Millions” ticket sales to more than $259 million since the ticket was introduced in April, far outpacing initial estimates.
So far, one $15 million top prize and eleven $1 million second-place prizes have been claimed, Lottery Executive Director Beth Bresnahan said during a meeting Tuesday.
“It is the industry’s most successful $30 ticket to date,” Bresnahan said.
Before it was launched, state lottery officials estimated the $30 ticket would generate $125 million to $150 million in annual revenue. The ticket is expected to sell for another year-and-a-half before printed tickets run out, lottery officials predict.
Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin introduced $30 tickets this year. Average weekly sales in Massachusetts hit $17.2 million. Georgia’s average weekly sales were closest to Massachusetts with $11.5 million in the first 12 weeks. Average weekly per capita $30 ticket sales in Massachusetts were $2.65 while Georgia’s per capita average weekly sales totaled $1.15 followed in a distant third by Pennsylvania at 46 cents per capita, according to lottery officials.
As lottery officials prepare to compete with casinos in Massachusetts, instant tickets continue to drive sales increases for the agency. Instant tickets saw a $22 million sales increase in July, compared to the same month last year, driven largely by new $1, $2, $5 and $10 instant ticket games released in mid-June.
“We are seeing a great bump this year, and we continue to retool the offerings, not only what they visually look like, but also the play mechanics and the prizes,” Bresnahan said. “The $30 ticket certainly has helped.”
Instant tickets account for almost 70 percent of the agency’s overall sales – a figure that has held steady for the past several years, according to Bresnahan. The Massachusetts Lottery was the first state lottery to introduce an instant ticket in 1974.
Lottery profits are returned to cities and towns as unrestricted local aid, a fact that has weighed in to the debate over legalizing casino gaming. Voters in November will decide whether to repeal the state’s casino gambling law, and candidates for statewide office have been debating both sides of that issue.
MGM Resorts was the first to receive a license to build a casino in Springfield, and Penn National Gaming will hold a celebration Wednesday at the slot parlor in the final stages of construction in Plainville, known as the Plainridge Park Casino. Executive from Penn National plan to use the event to express opposition to the ballot question repealing the law, Question 3.
The three Democrats running for governor sharply disagree on repealing the casino law. Donald Berwick, a former Medicaid and Medicare administrator, wants to repeal the law, while Attorney General Martha Coakley and Treasurer Steve Grossman do not. As treasurer, Grossman oversees the lottery.
Berwick told the News Service Tuesday he also does not like the $30 instant ticket because, he said, people with lower incomes are more likely to buy it than people with higher incomes.
“I’m against it,” Berwick said about the ticket. “The lottery is inherently regressive. People of lower income are more likely to be playing the lottery.”
“I think it is not a responsible way to increase state revenue,” he added.
State lotteries looking for growth in instant ticket sales are putting major efforts behind higher priced games, according to Bresnahan. This past spring New Hampshire launched a $25 ticket, and Florida introduced two $25 games over the last two years. The Texas Lottery offered a $50 game in May 2007. Connecticut launched the industry’s first $30 ticket in 2002.
Professionals in the industry predicted the $30 ticket would be a big-seller because of the $15 million prize, and the chance to win a second place million dollar prize with the same ticket, Bresnahan said.
“It has really been a great incentive for people to play,” she said. “It really has taken off.”
The Lottery plans to introduce other new instant tickets this fall, including a $2 Boston Bruins ticket with a $50,000 prize. A $5 New England Patriots scratch-and-win ticket went on sale Tuesday, with seven top prizes of $250,000 and nearly three million prizes ranging from $5 to $4,000.
Sales of other multi-state games dropped in July compared to the same month last year, including Powerball, which was down $3 million; Megabucks Doubler sales dropped approximately $500,000; and Lucky for Life sales were down approximately $495,000, and Jackpot Poker – the agency’s monitor game that debuted in June 2013 – saw a $1 million sales decline.