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A sign of changing times, Keno sales rebound
A sign of changing times, Keno sales rebound

BOSTON – After taking a nosedive when restaurants and bars shut down last year, the Massachusetts Lottery said Keno sales have “stabilized” and are contributing to a “strong year” for the agency.

Keno, which is often played by people seated inside bars and restaurants and usually accounts for about 20 percent of the Lottery’s overall sales, is just one of two Lottery products that have seen a year-over-year decline in sales in fiscal 2021, a 6.8 percent drop.

But Keno sales have topped their fiscal year 2019 levels for at least the last eight weeks.

“We have been able to stabilize our Keno sales. They’re not at the same level, I don’t believe, that they would have been absent the pandemic and the impact that that’s had on small businesses across the commonwealth, as well as general economic conditions and activity for consumers,” Executive Director Michael Sweeney told the Lottery Commission. “But, however, you see that we’ve been able to stabilize this number.”

Sweeney told the commission that $92.8 million in Keno sales in March — about $20 million more than was sold in March 2020 — helped the Lottery record $471.2 million in sales last month, an increase of $81.8 million from the early days of the pandemic last March.

The Lottery kept $81.2 million as profit last month, compared to $89.9 million in March 2020.

Though nine months of fiscal 2021, the Lottery has generated an estimated profit of $836.3 million, Sweeney said, which is $77.8 million more than what the Lottery had counted as profit at this point last fiscal year.

The agency has paid out a slightly smaller share of its revenue as prizes to this point in the budget year, 73.18 percent compared to 73.78 percent at this time last year.

“We continue to have a very strong year,” Sweeney said Tuesday. In March, the Lottery upgraded its fiscal year 2021 profit projection by $45 million. It now expects it will provide the Legislature with $985 million to distribute to cities and towns as local aid.