State plans to squeeze lottery customers - East Valley Tribune: News

State plans to squeeze lottery customers

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Posted: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 5:01 pm | Updated: 9:25 pm, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Unable to convince more Arizonans to gamble, the director of the state lottery wants to get Arizonans to gamble more.

Jeff Hatch-Miller said plans already are under way to get those who might spend just a few bucks a week to plunk down even more cash in hopes of scratching it rich or hitting the right combination of numbers to make them instant millionaires.

That includes a new Scratchers game aimed specifically at the younger crowd. Winners will be able to get not only cash but also music downloads.

And Arizona will soon join the multistate Mega Millions game. That will provide two more opportunities a week for Arizonans to try to win big dollars - and two more opportunities for the state to part gamblers from their money.

The moves come as a report Wednesday from the state Auditor General's Office suggests the Arizona Lottery should increase the number of people who gamble through the state-run games. That specifically includes using researchers to figure out "what would motivate some nonplayers to play."

But Hatch-Miller questioned how much of that is possible.

"Arizona has a relatively high proportion of the general population morally opposed to gambling, and by extension, the Lottery," Hatch-Miller said. He cited figures from a 2007 study that showed nearly one out of six adults would never buy a ticket for moral reasons.

But with a charge from the state to produce more revenues, Hatch-Miller is looking for ways to squeeze a bit more out of the approximately 53 percent of Arizonans who already are customers.

A big part of that is joining Mega Millions.

Arizona already operates several "numbers" games. There are five state-only games, including four daily drawings with relatively small prizes and twice-a-week The Pick, which has a prize that starts at $1 million but grows each time there is no grand prize winner.

The state also participates in Powerball, a multistate numbers game on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Having many states allows for large jackpots, including a $170 million prize being offered Wednesday night.

Mega Millions adds a big draw on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Hatch-Miller said he doubts the new games will simply result in gamblers spreading their dollars over more games, with no net increase in state revenues.

"People play based upon the size of the jackpot," he said. "More people play the big jackpot games (when the prize rolls over) than play the small jackpot games."

That desire for big bucks is reflected in studies of who gambles.

Only 21 percent of Arizona adults reported buying a Scratcher ticket within the prior month. And the smaller online numbers games each had a customer base in the single digits.

But a quarter of Arizonans reported buying a Pick ticket, with 42 percent saying they were Powerball customers.

The other big push involves getting younger customers to spend more. That's where the idea comes from to promote games that award music downloads

"Those are the kind of games that are more attractive to a younger demographic, which we haven't really spent a lot of time trying to attract," Hatch-Miller said.

Along the same lines, he said his agency is doing more advertising in Spanish, going after the state's fastest-growing demographic. But he said there are no plans now to actually have any Scratcher games or tickets printed in Spanish.

Auditor General Debbie Davenport also said the Arizona Lottery should try to recruit more retailers.

Hatch-Miller acknowledged that, unlike some states, his agency doesn't try to get its product into every mom-and-pop store. But he said it is now working to sell tickets in restaurants and even in VFW halls.

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