Education

Powerball mania boosted projections for Kentucky Lottery revenue

Kenneth Burton rubbed his free ticket on Kentucky Lottery Vice President Pete Ramsey's costume for luck during a Powerball ticket giveaway at the Brannon Crossing Kroger in Nicholasville, Ky., on Jan. 13, 2016.
Kenneth Burton rubbed his free ticket on Kentucky Lottery Vice President Pete Ramsey's costume for luck during a Powerball ticket giveaway at the Brannon Crossing Kroger in Nicholasville, Ky., on Jan. 13, 2016. palcala@herald-leader.com

From July to December last year, the Kentucky Lottery took in $31.2 million from Powerball ticket sales.

The first 13 days of January? About the same.

Getting $31.5 million in two weeks is a first for the Kentucky Lottery, a result of the record-setting $1.5 billion multi-state Powerball jackpot earlier this month.

“We liked those 13 days,” said Howard Kline, the lottery’s chief financial officer.

In all, the recent Powerball mania means lottery officials plan to raise their revenue for the second half of their fiscal year, to the tune of about $89 million.

Last year, total sales were $899 million. This year, officials expect sales of $987.9 million. The figures were released to the Kentucky Lottery board on Friday.

That means more money for college scholarships, which is what lottery money is supposed to pay for, according to the constitutional amendment passed by Kentucky voters in 1988.

$245.8 million The projected amount of Kentucky Lottery revenue that will go to the state for college scholarships this fiscal year.

Lottery proceeds finance the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship and, to a lesser extent, need-based financial-aid programs. Last year, $230.8 million went to the lottery trust fund, which the state uses mostly for college scholarships. In fiscal year 2016, that figure should be about $245.8 million.

Need-based aid has taken a hit in recent years because lawmakers have siphoned off lottery money to supplement the General Fund. Earlier this week, Gov. Matt Bevin said that such diversion would stop with his budget. However, his proposed two-year spending plan for the state would provide flat funding for need-based aid programs. Instead, he would use nearly $60 million over two years to finance a new scholarship program to help students complete workforce training programs.

Powerball drawings happen twice a week, but in October, the multi-state lottery authority added more balls to make it easier to win a secondary prize and harder to win a jackpot, Kentucky Lottery spokesman Chip Polston said.

Once the Powerball jackpot reaches a certain point, sales grow exponentially.

“When it gets to $200 to $300 million, we start to really capture player interest,” Polston said. “There were two hours on the day of the drawing where we were selling a $1 million worth of Powerball tickets per hour.”

Kline said it’s difficult to predict when such a large jackpot will occur.

“We won’t predict $1 billion again; that’s just not prudent when you’re trying to put together a budget,” he said.

Other lottery sales also are doing well, including scratch-off tickets and the Mega Millions game, Polston said, but “Powerball is a nice chunk.”

Linda Blackford: 859-231-1359, @lbblackford

Where lottery proceeds go

▪  60 percent go to winners in the form of cash prizes, incentives and rewards

▪  27 percent go to the state of Kentucky, mostly for college scholarships*

▪  7 percent go to administrative costs

▪  6 percent go to retailers

* Percentages vary by year. This year, the percentage going to scholarships is closer to 25.2 percent because of higher prize expenses and lower unclaimed prizes, according to lottery officials. Also, about $3 million will go to literacy programs, and almost $10 million will go into a rainy day fund for the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship program.

Source: Kentucky Lottery Corp.

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