Capitol Alert

Data Tracker: Lottery racking up sales, paying more prizes

The line is long and the hopes are high outside Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne, where people were buying Powerball tickets. The California Lottery had $5.5 billion in sales in 2014-15, more than 50 percent higher than in 2005-06.
The line is long and the hopes are high outside Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne, where people were buying Powerball tickets. The California Lottery had $5.5 billion in sales in 2014-15, more than 50 percent higher than in 2005-06. Los Angeles Times

Well before the largest jackpot in U.S. history had Californians queuing for a chance at Powerball riches, the state’s 30-year-old lottery had fully recovered from a recessionary dip in sales.

The lottery sold $5.5 billion in tickets during the fiscal year that ended last June, almost double the sales total during the Great Recession trough of 2008-09, when lottery sales dropped to $2.95 billion. Officials expect that sales growth to continue: Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest budget proposal projects that ticket sales will hit $6 billion through June.

Prize payouts have surged as well since the recession, more than doubling from about $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion. The lottery had stepped up its advertising during that time, from about $42 million to $62 million in 2014-15.

A portion of all lottery ticket sales also goes to education. From when the first Scratcher lottery ticket was sold in October 1985, through June 2014, the lottery has contributed about $28 billion to schools, out of almost $80 billion in tickets sold.

Yet notwithstanding its “Our Schools Win, Too” marketing pitch over the years, lottery funding represents just a sliver of the state’s overall education budget.

In the current budget year, K-12 schools will receive an estimated $72 billion from the general fund and other sources, including the lottery. The lottery’s $1.15 billion share represents about 1.59 percent of the overall schools budget through June 2016.

Chart of lottery revenue and expenses

The Sacramento Bee’s Data Tracker is a weekly feature that offers a deeper look at the numbers behind today’s news. Jim Miller: 916-326-5521, @jimmiller2

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