Idaho lottery officials prepare for shortfall in sales

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho lottery officials are bracing for a $10 million shortfall in ticket sales this year caused by large national and statewide drops in Powerball and Mega Millions jackpot earnings.

State Lottery Director Jeff Anderson told budget-setting lawmakers Friday that meeting his agency's goal of $220 million in sales looks potentially unattainable. It's still possible that the agency will meet its goal if a large jackpot attracts more sales in the next few months, Anderson said.

For example, if this weekend's Powerball drawing — now estimated at $380 million — does not produce a winner for two or three more cycles, he said, the sales could close the gap. "However, hope is not a business plan, and hoping for that to happen is unwise here today," Anderson said.

In Idaho, Powerball sales are down 25 percent and Mega Millions sales are down 14 percent. However, both are faring better than national sales — which are down 40 and 25 percent, respectively.

Some fluctuation is normal, but this year is problematic because both drops are happening at the same time, Anderson said. "Nationally, combined sales in Powerball and Mega Millions have never experienced the year-over-year decrease of this magnitude," he told lawmakers.

Democratic Rep. John Gannon from Boise asked whether the decline in sales may be related to the state's new instant horse racing games, which have garnered attention for closely resembling slot machines.

"We have no evidence of that," Anderson replied. "It's two different types of players and experiences."

As a result of the decline in ticket sales, officials have lowered projected sales for fiscal year 2016 from $220 million to $216 million — still higher than the current $210 million sales projection for this fiscal year.

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