As Powerball Takes Over, NY’s Lotto Continues Decline


New York’s venerable twice-weekly Lotto drawing continues its long-term decline in an age of multistate mega jackpots. Even as overall lottery revenues grew, receipts from Lotto dropped from $137.5 million in 2005 to a projected $44 million for the state fiscal year ending March 31, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent budget proposal.

Lotto is simply less alluring than the six-figure jackpots of Powerball and Mega Millions, which are sold around the nation.

“With Powerball, the amount is always so much more than Lotto,” said Eric Gordon, a Powerball player checking out the $194 million jackpot sign on his way to work in Albany on Thursday, a day when Lotto’s jackpot was $8.4 million. “Just a bigger pot and the feeling and the adrenaline that you get from thinking, ‘Maybe I can win this!’”

Lotto was introduced as a pick-your-own numbers game in 1978, and an early jackpot was $250,000. A state lottery report from 1983 notes that Lotto’s popularity was slow in coming, “but once it did the success was phenomenal.” Long lines of Lotto players at delis and convenience stores became a common sight when jackpots swelled. The ubiquitous “Hey, You Never Know” ad campaign was launched in 1991 to spotlight high jackpots.

In 1995, it was New York’s No. 1 game as measured by dollars brought in by ticket sales. But the game reached its peak a couple of years later.

Lotto now represents a small slice of the state’s lottery revenue.

The estimated $44 million in Lotto receipts projected for this fiscal year compares to $166 million for Powerball in New York and $124 million for Mega Millions. New York also projects $632 million from instant games and $937 million from video lottery terminals at the state’s nine so-called racinos.

A spokesman for the lottery noted that revenue from Lotto began to decline long ago with the rise of multistate jackpots. Spokesman Lee Park declined to comment on the future of Lotto but said they continue to evaluate games and marketing to increase sales.

“The New York Lottery continues to be the most profitable in North America with record-strong sales and revenue for education,” Park said.

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