BOSTON — Through the first five months of the fiscal year, the Massachusetts Lottery has sold $11.5 million less of its scratch tickets and draw games than the same period last fiscal year, executive director Michael Sweeney said, and that year-to-date deficit is expected to grow.
Through November, the Lottery has taken in $2.195 billion in sales, $11.5 million or 0.5 percent less than the $2.2065 billion in sales in the first five months of the previous fiscal year.
That $11.5 million deficit over the previous year will likely expand, Sweeney said, because the monthly sales reports for January and February will be compared to those months last fiscal year that included sales for the historic $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot.
“Unfortunately, unless something happens with Powerball over the next two months I’m expecting this to grow because you’re going to start to see last year’s Powerball factor really start to kick in over the next two or three months,” he told the Lottery Commission Tuesday morning, Dec. 20.
Treasurer Deborah Goldberg braced the commission and Lottery staff for some unfavorable year-over-year comparisons beginning with next month’s meeting.
“I just really want to emphasize that I don’t want any sticker shock at our January meeting when we see comparisons to last year. I really want to have it in everyone’s head that the Powerball really drove sales up and it was an anomaly. It made our year,” Goldberg said. “Unless something extraordinary like that happens again, I just don’t want people to go, ‘What happened?'”
Of particular concern this year is a drop in scratch ticket sales, Sweeney said. Through the first five months of the fiscal year scratch ticket sales — which account for 70 percent of the Lottery’s total — were down $43.5 million or about 3 percent.
“Instant tickets is our biggest revenue driver … That’s what [is] dragging down the performance elsewhere,” Sweeney said. “There simply is not another engine that’s a dependable, predictable engine that’s going to make up for losing that 70 percent driver month over month.”
Earlier this month, Goldberg warned state budget writers that the Lottery is preparing for a period of “stagnation” in the Keno game and a decline by as much as 2 percent in instant ticket sales.
Goldberg said she expects the Lottery will return $965 million in profits as local aid to cities and towns, down from the record $986.9 million last fiscal year.
Pointing to the downturn in the Lottery’s largest product line, Goldberg and Sweeney have pushed the Legislature to allow the Massachusetts Lottery to sell its scratch tickets, drawing entries and other products over the internet and mobile apps to attract younger players.
In a political environment where new taxes are opposed by the governor and state tax collection growth has slowed, non-tax revenue sources like the Lottery are being eyed by some lawmakers for potential cash. Goldberg, who manages the Lottery, has said the Lottery cannot continue to return record-setting profits to the state unless it is allowed to move online.
“We are continuing to see the trends,” Goldberg said. “We think that there is a good argument for moving forward.”
Massachusetts supplements its Lottery aid with local aid derived from expanded gambling. No casinos have yet opened under a 2011 law but a slots parlor is up and running in Plainville.