- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2008

RICHMOND

Virginia Lottery officials are counting on a late surge in sales to push their second New Year’s Millionaire Raffle past the break-even point, but another sellout appears out of reach.

As of Monday morning, about 190,000 of the 440,000 tickets had been sold, Virginia Lottery Executive Director Paula Otto said in a telephone interview. The agency needs to sell about 300,000 tickets to avoid taking a loss, and Ms. Otto thinks it can be done.

“We expect sales this week to be very busy,” she said.

Last year the New Year’s raffle sold out about eight hours before the drawing, with about 99,000 tickets sold over the final three days. Lottery officials are projecting sales of about 108,000 tickets over the final three days this year, which would just about push sales to the break-even mark.

In addition to alerting the news media about the pace of ticket sales, lottery officials have extended the deadline for buying tickets from 5 p.m. Wednesday until 11 p.m. The drawing will be held a few minutes after sales end, just in time to ring in the new year.

“Most folks are procrastinators, and the likelihood is that people will be out and about buying snacks for their New Year’s party,” Ms. Otto said, adding that they can pick up a raffle ticket at the same time.

There will be four $1 million winners and four $50,000 winners. Four hundred players will win $500.

Because numbers that are not sold will not be part of the drawing, a non-sellout improves players’ odds of winning, Ms. Otto said. Unlike other lottery games, the raffle features a limited number of tickets for sale and guarantees a certain number of prizes. The odds of winning the top prize also are better, but the trade-off is a higher ticket price: $20 for the raffle, compared to $1 for most lottery games.

Slower sales in a weak economy are not surprising, Ms. Otto said. The lottery’s overall sales are down slightly this year, she said, and retailers’ holiday season struggles suggest people are tightening their discretionary spending.

Also, the novelty of lottery raffles is wearing off not only in Virginia but in other states, Ms. Otto said. This is the Virginia Lottery’s fourth raffle in 19 months - and, according to Ms. Otto, the last one for a while.

After the state’s first two raffles sold out - 330,000 tickets for the first raffle, 440,000 for the second - only 226,331 of an unlimited supply of tickets were sold for September’s Virginia Lottery 20th Birthday Raffle.

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