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Director: Big Powerball pots helped fuel record year for state lottery

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PHOENIX – The two largest jackpots in Powerball history, including one split by a Fountain Hills man, contributed to a record-breaking fiscal 2013 for the Arizona Lottery, its executive director said.

“People all over Arizona are excited and are playing the game, so that added a lot to our sales,” Jeff Hatch-Miller said.

Sales revenue for the year ending June 30 was $692.9 million, up 7.2 percent from the previous year. It was the most in the lottery’s 31-year history and enough that for only the fourth time every designated lottery beneficiary received its full funding.

The price of Powerball tickets doubled to $2 in January 2012, helping fuel larger jackpots. In May, a Florida woman won a record $590.5 million jackpot, while in November 2012 Matthew Good of Fountain Hills split $587.5 million.

Tim James, a professor at the L. William Seidman Research Institute at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, said older Arizonans may have helped boost sales.

“The population of the retirees in Arizona is increasing after the recession due to the migration of people who are retiring, and they have more time and discretionary income to play,” he said.

Hatch-Miller said the recession didn’t affect the Arizona Lottery’s performance. In addition to big jackpots, he credited new games such as the Weekly Winnings drawing and Second Chance Scratchers.

“The economy in Arizona was a little stressed in the last few years. During the recession most people didn’t spend that much, and you would think people would spend less on the lottery,” he said. “They spent a lot less on the casinos and other entertainment, but the Arizona lottery, because of some new games and the big jackpots, it’s been doing really well.”

Matthew Smith, managing director at Chicago-based Independent Gaming Research, said Arizona and other states are benefiting from offering new and better games.

“Lotteries are getting smarter – not just simply throwing a bunch of instant games out there which nobody knows what they mean, but really think about the themes, the prizes and the motivations,” he said.

At S & J Shop & Ship in downtown Phoenix, owner Shirley Petro said lottery ticket sales were up 44 percent in fiscal 2013 over the previous year. However, she attributed that to the growing population in the area.

“People have a lot of pressure on their jobs, they are stressed. They come in, they buy a lottery ticket, they think maybe they will be able to quit work,” she said. “That’s probably why the lottery has been high: It gives people hope.”

After dropping $2 on a Powerball ticket at a Circle K, Catherine Ramirez, a security guard, said she plays for the big jackpots.

“I buy lottery tickets a couple of times a week, and hopefully I’ll win $500,000 or $1.5 million.