- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Gambling fatigue and smaller jackpots led to a $903,000 decrease in lottery ticket sales in North Dakota during the last fiscal year, the state’s lottery directory said.

North Dakota gamblers wagered $26.9 million on lottery games for the fiscal year that ended June 30, down from a record $27.8 million in fiscal 2013, lottery director Randy Miller reported Tuesday in a financial statement to the agency’s advisory board. Miller said the report is still being audited and the final figures could change slightly.

Jackpots affect ticket sales and some gamblers hold out for bigger payouts before playing, which likely happened last fiscal year, Miller said. Record jackpots in 2012-2013 also resulted in “player fatigue” last year, he said.

“We just didn’t have the record jackpots we’ve seen in the past two years,” Miller said.

The sum of ticket sales last year was still bigger than the then-record $26 million set in fiscal 2012.

The lottery offers five multistate games - Powerball and Mega Millions, in which the odds of winning are minute and the jackpots potentially massive, and Hot Lotto, 2by2 and Wild Card 2, which have smaller payouts but better odds.

Powerball has been the state’s most popular lottery game since it was launched in 2004, following a successful initiative campaign to lift the North Dakota Constitution’s lottery ban.

Data show lottery prizes from all games dropped from $14.2 million in fiscal 2013 to $13.7 million last year. The lottery’s overall expenses dropped from $19.7 million to $19.2 million during that time, due to a decrease in ticket sales, Miller said.

While ticket sales and revenue were down, salaries and benefits for the agency’s eight full-time and two part-time employees increased from $747,353 in fiscal 2013 to $796,747 last year, data show.

Most lottery profits go to the state’s general treasury, with smaller portions set aside to provide counseling for gambling addicts and for drug enforcement.

Mike Rud, chairman of the agency’s five-member advisory board, said while revenues were down last year, “it’s still pretty good income for the state.”

Rud said the board may recommend increasing lottery marketing to boost ticket sales.

“The lottery is competing with everyone out there for the dollar,” he said.

Miller said North Dakota players didn’t cash $464,000 worth of winning tickets in fiscal 2014, up from $440,000 the year before and well above the long-term average of about $370,000. The total last year includes a $22,000 2by2 ticket that the buyer didn’t turn in, he said.

Gamblers have to cash a winning lottery ticket within six months, or the money goes to the state.

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