TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – More people than ever are taking a gamble on the games offered by the state’s Lottery Department.
In the last fiscal year, which ended June 30th, the 25-year-old Florida Lottery set a record with more than $5 billion in sales,
The release of the sales numbers came as state lawmakers await the second part of a study on the potential impacts of casino gambling and other wagering in Florida — and prepare for what could be a major debate on gambling during next year’s legislative session.
The increased sales stemmed largely from a rise in the play of scratch-off tickets and a 34 percent growth in the play of Powerball, which is the most popular game. The state had projected its overall lottery sales to reach $4.7 billion last year.
“We’re just trying to roll out bigger and better games,” Lottery spokeswoman Meagan Dougherty said. “Also with the addition of Mega Millions we’re just trying to keep up and be ahead of the curve on all our games and keep people interested and have new players come in.”
A little more than 62 percent of the money is paid out to winners, while $1.41 billion will go to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.
The voter-approved Lottery grew from $1.8 billion in sales in 1989, its first full year, to $4.45 billion in fiscal 2011-12, before surging during the recently finished 2012-13 fiscal year.
The national Powerball game was driven by a couple of massive jackpots in the past year, including one with a jackpot estimated at $590.5 million in May that was won by a woman who purchased the ticket in Zephyrhills.
In May, the state also started to participate in another national game, Mega Millions.
Gov. Rick Scott and Lottery Secretary Cynthia O’Connell both praised the money generated for education, in a release issued by the Lottery.
However, the accessibility and instant gratification that is touted in ads for the state games also are important factors in the Lottery being among the top three causes of gambling addictions in Florida, according to the Orlando-based Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling.
“It’s so accessible, there are thousands and thousands of retailers around the state, almost every convenience store, every gas station, every supermarket has the vending machines, so regardless of where you are you can play the lottery,” said Brian Kongsvik, the council’s director of Helpline Operations.
Only slot machines and card games top the Lottery as the sources of addiction for those seeking help with the council, Kongsvik said.
“People that would normally gamble in casinos that are an hour or two away can now slip into the corner store and buy scratch-off tickets for anything, Powerball, Lotto, Cash 3, Play 4,” Kongsvik said. “You’re talking high volume stuff — $5 billion in sales — that is a tremendous juggernaut that the Lottery has.”
The Lottery broke the $2 billion a year mark in 1990, $3 billion in 2004, and $4 billion for the first time in 2007. Florida started to offer Powerball in 2009.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.