Lottery ticket sales jump 8.5 percent
Martin Kubincanek plunks down about $20 a day to play the Pennsylvania Lottery the old-fashioned way, buying his tickets at a lottery retailer in Brownsville.
“I've been doing this since they started,” said Kubincanek, 71, of Daisytown.
The lottery said this week that its 2011-12 fiscal year was the best in its 41-year history, setting records for sales and profit and generating more than $1 billion for programs that benefit older Pennsylvanians.
Despite those numbers, lottery officials say they won't jump into online ticket sales — a concept almost two dozen states are considering as a means to hike sales.
“We're aware of it and evaluating it,” said Allison Roberts, a lottery spokesperson. “It's not something we'll launch in the short term.”
In March, Illinois became the first state to offer online lottery tickets after a U.S. Justice Department ruling in December cleared the way for such sales. Georgia Lottery officials last week approved an online ticket system and expects sales to begin this fall.
Pennsylvania Lottery officials said ticket sales rose $273 million in 2011-12 to $3.48 billion, an 8.5-percent increase over the previous year. It put $1.06 billion into the fund for senior citizen programs, more than 10 percent better than last year and 8.7 percent more than a record set in 2005-06.
Officials said Powerball and Mega Millions combined for $88.5 million more in sales over the previous year, and scratch-offs rose 11 percent to $212.5 million.
Allegheny County received almost $357 million for the five programs paid for with lottery money in the 2010-11 fiscal year, the latest year for which the lottery could provide figures.
If the county were to fund those programs, it would need another 6.59 mills in tax collections, said county spokeswoman Amie M. Downs. One mill generates about $54 million.
Without lottery money, “half of the programs the Area Agency on Aging delivers to needy seniors would go away,” said Mildred E. Morrison, administrator of the county's Department of Human Services Area Agency on Aging.
The lottery provides money for five main programs for older Pennsylvanians: property tax and rent rebates; Area Agencies on Aging and senior centers; meals, free transit and reduced-fare shared rides; low-cost prescription drug programs; and long-term living services.
The 2010-11 lottery distributions included: $114 million to Westmoreland County; $13.7 million to Washington County; $51 million to Fayette County; $42 million to Butler County; and $43 million to Beaver County.
The lottery's solid performance in recent years has allowed the state to expand services to older people, said Rep. Brandon P. Neuman, D-North Strabane, who serves on the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee.
“They've been able to make more Pennsylvanians eligible because the lottery has been so solvent,” he said. “As the cost of buying goes up and paychecks stay the same, more people can use these programs.”
The results “will give the Legislature and the governor the opportunity to expand existing programs or look for new ones,” said Rep. Martin Schmotzer, D-Baldwin, another member of the Aging and Older Adult Services Committee.
For each $1 ticket purchased, the Lottery generates about 30 cents for the programs. That amounts to more than $21.5 billion since the first ticket sales in 1972.
Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.