Vacation Cash, the Florida Lottery's second annual attempt to boost the state's tourist industry, is off to a fast start.
Despite a sharply reduced ad budget and a shorter run of tickets for the $2 scratch-off game, sales are brisk. The game ranks 14th among 30 instant games the Lottery is running now. About 1,100 losing ticket buyers a day registered for the game's second-chance drawings.
Prizes for the drawings - vacations packages at your choice of 50 Florida resorts including the Don CeSar Beach Resort and Saddlebrook Resort in the Tampa Bay area - were all the visitor industry put up for the exposure. The prizes are valued at $193,000, but the odds of winning one of the vacations depends on how many people sign up for each drawing.
Gov. Jeb Bush dreamed up the idea as part of his plan to have state agencies get the tourist industry back on its feet after 9/11. This year, officials did not think the industry needed as much help.
The advertising effort behind Vacation Cash is $1-million, a fifth of what was spent promoting the game statewide in 2002.
Officials expect to sell $10-million in Vacation Cash tickets over the game's six-month run, $6.8-million of which pays off instant winners while $2.3-million is forwarded to the state education budget.
Last year, the Lottery sold 93 percent of the Vacation Cash tickets.
"If we sell more than 90 percent, it's a top-seller," said Walter Gaddy, Lottery instant product manager.
In the last go-round, losing tickets could be used for discounts at dozens of Florida attractions. This time, the Lottery officials preferred drawings to give the losers a little more hope. To register for the drawings, contestants must register online.
"We have entries from 42 states, so tourists are buying them," Gaddy said.