TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) –Amid the Florida Legislature’s debate over  if and how gambling should expand in the state, Florida Lottery officials are boasting about record increases in sales.

The 25-year-old Florida Lottery announced Thursday that the pace of sales in scratch-off and terminal games like Powerball is running ahead of last fiscal year’s record-setting $5 billion sales mark.

With sales at $2.6 billion from July through December, the agency projects sales will top $5.1 billion for the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. The estimated sales would rake in $1.43 billion for education, according to the Florida Lottery.

“The Lottery’s sole mission is to sell tickets to generate additional funding for education.  We are extremely proud that this unprecedented sales record will assist in furthering that goal,” Lottery Secretary Cynthia O’Connell said in a release.

The sales numbers were released as lawmakers weigh the direction of gaming in Florida and consider opening the doors to Las Vegas-style casinos.

The voter-approved Lottery has steadily grown from $1.8 billion in sales in its first full year in 1989.

Scratch-off tickets, which range in price from $1 to $25, are now available at more than 13,000 locations throughout the state.

From July through December last year, scratch-off games accounted for $1.57 billion in sales, up nearly 14 percent from the same period the previous year. The more expensive tickets, which offer the potential for large payouts and instant results, are top sellers, according to Lottery spokeswoman Meagan Dougherty.

The $25 per-ticket Millionaire scratch-off game, introduced in September 2012, has 25 top prizes between $1 million and $5 million.  The odds of buying one of those tickets range from one in 5 million to one in 6 million.

Games such as Powerball and Florida Lotto — called lucky number drawings or terminal games — have accounted for just over $994,000 in sales from July through December, up 1.5 percent from the same period year earlier.

Powerball play dropped this year because a $587.5 million “monster jackpot” in November 2012 swelled the prior year’s totals, Dougherty said.

But the terminal game total was boosted by $89 million in sales of Mega Millions, introduced in Florida in May. The Mega Million’s minimum jackpot was raised in October from $12 million to $15 million. The multi-state game helped bolster sales after a series of rollovers peaked with a $636 million jackpot on Dec. 17.

“The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.”


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