- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Lottery ticket sales increased slightly in North Dakota over the last fiscal year despite fewer multimillion dollar jackpots, the state’s lottery director said.

North Dakota gamblers wagered just more than $27 million on lottery games for the fiscal year that ended June 30, or about $100,000 more than fiscal 2014, lottery director Randy Miller said. The numbers are still being audited and the final figures could change slightly, he said.

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.

There were fewer jackpots of more than $400 million in the last fiscal year, which likely impacted lottery ticket sales, Miller said.

“We were fortunate to be able to sustain sales,” he told The Associated Press Thursday. North Dakota lottery sales set a record in fiscal 2013 at $27.8 million, or about $800,000 more than last fiscal year.

Jackpots affect ticket sales and some gamblers hold out for bigger payouts before playing, he said.

Record sales likely would have occurred last fiscal year with “just one good Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot,” Miller said.

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.

Mike Rud, chairman of the agency’s five-member advisory board, said Friday he’s pleased with the success of North Dakota’s lottery.

“Continued growth is what we’ve seen and continued growth is good for any business,” he said.

Most of the revenue from gambling goes into North Dakota’s general fund, which is spent on an assortment of programs, including aid for schools and medical care for the poor. Some lottery revenue is reserved for treatment programs for compulsive gamblers.

Data show lottery prizes from all games remained flat at about $14 million last fiscal year. Aside from prize expenses, the lottery’s biggest cost is commissions paid to Scientific Games International Inc., which supplies and services the lottery’s sales terminals. The Georgia company takes a commission of about a dime for every dollar wagered, Miller said.

The lottery paid more than $1.3 million to North Dakota retailers who sell tickets. Four hundred and fifty businesses get a nickel commission for every dollar wagered, Miller said.

Miller said North Dakota players didn’t cash $384,422 worth of winning tickets in fiscal 2015, down from $464,000 the year before and just about the long-term average of about $370,000. The total last year includes a $2,500 Mega Millions ticket the buyer didn’t cash 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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