To many it may be easier catching a leprechaun and capturing his proverbial pot of gold for your fortune. Still as slim a chance as that might seem, people in Colorado who play the lotteries games of chance are not about to be deterred by long odds. They have faith that that a big payday is out there and believe it has their name on it. What’s more, the Colorado Lottery proves it many times each week.
“We do feel very fortunate to have strong sales this year,” said Jennifer Anderson, Deputy Director of the Colorado Lottery. “Overall, our total sales are up compared to last fiscal year. We’re close to $500 million in total revenue compared to last year at this time,” she said in a recent interview.
Part of what is fueling 2021’s sales are a couple of record jackpots from national lottery games, Mega Millions and Powerball. The combined take for the two popular games totaled $1.76 billion. “That was the highest (total) before one was hit,” said the Lottery executive. Someone had Mega Million’s winning ticket last January 22nd and won its $739 million prize.
Lotteries have been around for a long time. But it wasn’t until 1964 when New Hampshire became the first U.S. state to establish a state-run lottery that they took off in this country. Since then, lotto fever has become commonplace across the country. In all, 44 U.S. states have sanctioned lottery games. Six states, Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, and Utah have avoided the temptation to establish state-run games of chance. That, however, has not deterred people from crossing state lines to buy lottery tickets, especially when jackpots are high.
In Colorado, lottery profits, including those from Mega Millions and Powerball, are dedicated to Great Outdoors Colorado, the Conservation Trust Fund and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. ‘Spillover funds,’ by law, go to “the Building Excellent Schools Today” fund. Since 1985, the state lottery has put more than $3.4 billion back into state needs.
Colorado’s first ever lottery drawing took place in April 1983. Since then, it has grown exponentially to include both lotto ticket sales along with a variety of scratch ticket games. “Scratch sales have been increasing in recent years,” said Anderson. What is so appealing about them, she said, is simple; “You can know (if you won) right away.” Scratch sales, said Anderson, “account for 60 percent of overall sales.” Scratch tickets are sold in $1, $2 and $3 denominations. One of the most popular tickets is the ‘thousand dollars a day for life,’ ticket. Each scratch ticket offers its own enticement.
Despite its tremendous popularity, state lottery officials are constantly changing and updating ticket options. An example is the Colorado Lottery ‘quick pick,’ said Anderson. “It went from one to two dollars,” she said. The increase did not deter sales, likely because the prize also grew. “We really have seen the majority of buyers pay the extra dollar…these changes have positive changes on revenue for that game.”
While there is provable data that show lotto---despite the odds of winning---remains popular, there are still detractors who claim that it exploits those who can least afford to play. But Anderson says that is not true and has the data to prove it. “We do quarterly tracking surveys to make sure we know who is playing our games,” she said. “Data mostly matches the overall demographic data for Colorado. We don’t want to see income and ethnic groups making up larger percentage of our player base.”
Anderson also put to rest any notion that big Mega Millions and Powerball winners never land in Colorado. They may be rare in the state, she said. But they happen. “We had had three Powerball winners since 2007,” she said. Two big winners, one a $133 million winner and another $90 million jackpot hit here in 2017 and 2014, respectively. Still, she said, “We agree that we’re due a win, particularly for Mega Million. We’ve never had a winner in Colorado.” Incidentally, added Anderson, “We had one $1 million winner and two $250 thousand secondary prizes in January’s Powerball.”