Lotto sweetens jackpots

To boost droopy sales, the Florida Lottery will soon offer two new ticket options.

By Steve Huettel, Times Staff Writer
Published February 12, 2008

Hoping to juice sagging sales, the Florida Lottery wants you to supersize that $1 Lotto ticket.

Retailers on March 2 will start selling $2 and $3 tickets that can win extra millions for lucky players in the twice-weekly drawing.

You'll get the same six numbers as a basic ticket, with the same odds of 1 in 23-million. But if you hit all six, the new Lotto offerings deliver a sweeter prize: up to $10-million more than the basic jackpot for a $2 ticket and as much as $25-million more for a $3 ticket.

Launched in 1988, Lotto remains the most popular Florida Lottery game, with 43 percent of adults in the state playing at least once a week. But revenues peaked at just over $1-billion in its first full year and have slowly trended down ever since. Instant scratch-off games now are the hot ticket, producing more than half the lottery's $4-billion in annual sales.

Officials hope that bigger Lotto jackpots will turn things around. "Being that the game is 20 years old, the lottery felt it was time for a refresher," said spokeswoman Jacqueline Barreiros. "It's a jackpot-driven game. Our goal was to find a way to drive up the jackpot."

Gov. Charlie Crist is counting on gambling money to help finance state services in the coming year. The biggest chunk comes from the Florida Lottery, an additional $248-million. The new enhanced Lotto tickets are expected to produce $100.3-million of that.

Florida has one of the most lucrative lotteries in the country but can't match the huge payouts from the multistate games, Powerball and Mega Millions.

In one of his first acts as governor in 1999, Jeb Bush reversed the decision of the late Lawton Chiles to enter the Powerball lottery. He said it was of "debatable effectiveness" and would hurt the state lottery's chances of achieving long-term stability.

State officials made the last big change to Lotto that year, increasing the 49 number choices to 53 and adding a second weekly drawing on Wednesdays.

Florida Lottery officials came up with the Lotto buy-up scheme, a variant of a lottery in Argentina, Barreiros said. Other states offer lottery games with multiple number combinations but nothing like Florida's latest spin, said Bruce LaFleur, co-publisher of the annual World Lottery Almanac. "It's a new twist on an old game," he said.

Here's how it will work:

Think of three winning pots: the basic jackpot, the $2 jackpot worth $10-million and the $3 jackpot worth $15-million. Win with a $2 ticket and you get the first two pots; win with a $3 ticket and collect all three.

Like the current Lotto, multiple winners split jackpots equally. Winners must take annuity payments over 30 years to get the maximum payout. Or they can collect a lump-sum payment worth slightly more than half that much.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or 813 226-3384.

By the numbers:

$735.6 million Annual Lotto sales

17.8% Lotto share of Florida Lottery sales

55.4% Scratch-off games' share

43% Percent of Florida adults playing Lotto once weekly

Note: Annual sales for year ending June 30, 2007.

Source: Florida Lottery