Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Lottery braces for lower sales

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - The Kentucky Lottery Monday lost its biggest competitive edge over an upstart lottery to the south.

Powerball tickets went on sale in Tennessee - the latest entry in the multistate game that offers jackpots worth tens of millions of dollars. The jackpot for Wednesday night's drawing is estimated at $90 million.

For years, the allure of instant wealth has drawn Tennesseans across the border in droves to buy lottery tickets in Kentucky - up to $75 million worth each year, Kentucky Lottery President Arch Gleason said.

Those days are numbered now, Gleason said. Tennessee began Powerball sales Monday, and a full array of games will follow.

"It makes our job increasingly more difficult," Gleason said at a news conference. "Powerball is the game that is the driving force for pulling people into Kentucky to play our games."

One of Kentucky's busiest lottery vendors - Jeff Milam of Lotto Land at Franklin - said he didn't see much difference by midday Monday, typically a slow day for lottery sales.

But 90 percent of Lotto Land's customers are from Tennessee, and Milam said he expected to lose half of his overall sales.

Milam said he's already cut back hours for two store employees. "We're going to just ride it out for a few weeks and see what happens," he said.

Milam said he hoped the General Assembly would permit more lottery games.

Last year, the Kentucky Lottery board voted to introduce an online version of keno, a casino game. Gov. Ernie Fletcher objected, and the board backed down.

Kentucky uses lottery profits for college scholarships and grants. Gleason said any decline in lottery revenues will have repercussions for scholarship programs.

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