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Lottery celebrates 20 years

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

(Photo)
Sue Mays, an employee at Quick Chek, gets a scrattchers lottery ticket for Bill McCall.
SIKESTON -- It was 1986 -- the year the Challenger exploded, the year Oprah Winfrey splashed her way onto the TV screen -- and the year Missourians got their very own lottery.

Quick Chek in Sikeston has sold Missouri Lottery tickets since the very beginning. Over the years, one of the biggest changes has been the variety of tickets offered and the value of their prizes, said owner Steve Woods.

"When it started, they were just $1 scratch-off tickets. Now they also have $2, $3, $5, $10, and I think $20-Scratcher tickets are on the drawing board," Woods said.

And today players can enter second-chance drawings and check winning numbers online, Woods noted.

Over the years, it's the Lottery ticket machines that have changed the most for workers, said Paula Wilson, secretary at Boomland in Charleston.

"It used to be an older machine and now it's more high-tech," Wilson said. "Now you just hit the screen with finger and it gives you what you want."

Before, Wilson said, workers had to punch in the ticket option on a number key pad.

Missouri Lottery sales kicked off 20 years ago on Jan. 20, 1986, with the "Jackpot '86" Scratchers game.

"We've come a long way since Jan. 20, 1986," said Larry Jansen, executive director of the Missouri Lottery. "There have been many changes in the way we do business to make our products better and to make the Lottery more efficient."

To celebrate its anniversary, Missouri Lottery unleashed on Monday a four-

week promotional raffle game called Dream Draw.

Each week during the four-week promotion, one raffle number will be drawn and the raffle ticket holder will receive a $20,000 tax-paid prize. During the final drawing Feb. 24, the Lottery will draw from along all the entries received for the four drawings to award one grand prize, $200,000 taxes paid.

Promotions like Dream Draw usually do well with consumers and boost sales, said Wilson, who's been working at Boomland for 16 years.

"People still enjoy playing the Lottery and it's quite a popular thing," agreed Susan Goedde, media manager for Missouri Lottery in Jefferson City.

Woods agreed.

"I really don't know why," the Sikeston retailer said. "It's gambling is what it is, and people like to gamble."

Woods said the biggest winner Quick Chek ever had won $100,000 a few years ago.

Boomland has also had some big winners, said Wilson, who has worked at Boomland for 16 years. Even out-of-state residents passing through will take a chance at the Missouri Lottery, she said.

Annual Lottery sales were $206 million in fiscal year 1987 and were $786 million in fiscal year 2005, Goedde pointed out.

Lottery proceeds over the years have grown, too. Nearly $2.6 billion in proceeds have been generated by the Lottery over the years, Goedde said. One of the first changes the Lottery made was removing restrictions on prize payouts, Goedde said. The maximum prize payout when the Lottery began was 45 percent. Now, the Lottery returns an average of 61.6 percent of sales as prizes.

"Missouri has also, if you look over the last 10 years, led all of the other states in percentage of proceed growth and set a record low as far as operating costs being only 5 percent of sales compared to 14 percent years ago," Goedde said.

Another improvement was allowing the redemption of Scratchers tickets at any Missouri Lottery retail location. This change was made in June 1994.

When the Missouri Lottery began in 1986, all proceeds went to the state's General Revenue Fund, Goedde noted. In 1992, Missouri voters approved an amendment to direct all Lottery proceeds to the Lottery Proceeds Fund to solely benefit public education.

Despite the change, people today are still confused about where the money goes, Goedde said.

"But all of the money goes to Missouri education," Goedde assured. "What happens is each year the legislature determines what programs within education will be funded and how much money they receive."

All of the programs funded each year, as well as other information, are listed on Missouri Lottery's Web site, www.molottery.com, for public viewing, Goedde pointed out.

"Someone wins every day," Goedde said. "Prizes range from $10,000 to $300,000 and a jackpot worth millions."

To date, more than $8.5 billion has been generated in Lottery sales, and more than $4.8 billion in prizes have been won by players.

"People like just the chance of seeing if they can win big and the prize," Wilson said about why people like to play the Lottery. "You never know. It takes just one ticket."