- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Lottery Corp. has paid off all its debts and will share its profits for the first time with local governments earlier than planned thanks in part to the recent Powerball craze, state lottery CEO Jon Clontz said.

Clontz announced Saturday that the first payment of lottery profits to cities, towns and counties will amount to $1 million and will be made April 5.

The recent record $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot, which was split among three winners in other states earlier this month, was a financial boon for the WyoLotto, which began selling tickets in August 2014, Clontz said.

In one week at the height of the Powerball frenzy, WyoLotto brought in $3 million, he said.

“We made a lot more and that allowed us to pay the loan off earlier, we were able to seed the reserve account and we were able to put a million dollars into the transfer account,” Clontz said.

The lottery had to take out a $2.6 million loan to start up because the state Legislature did not provide any money when lawmakers authorized it in 2013.

State law requires the first $6 million of lottery proceeds to be distributed to cities, towns and counties on a quarterly basis. Proceeds beyond the $6 million will go to a state education fund.

Some had criticized the lottery for paying off its startup loan and not sharing its profits right away with local governments.

Clontz said the amount of future payments to local governments will depend on ticket sales. But he believes the quarterly payments will amount to at least $350,000 to $400,000.

WyoLotto is restricted by state law to selling draw tickets for Powerball, Mega Millions and the state Cowboy Draw games.

The lottery could substantially increase its earnings if it could sell instant winner games, like scratch tickets, Clontz said.

“You get to a point that you can only put so many of the same cigars in a different cigar box. A draw game is a draw game. so how many can you put in?” he said. “…To reach $6 million in net profit to transfer we a need a much larger game portfolio. We need keno and we need scratch tickets, or we need another 7 million people dropped into the state.”

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