- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Lottery is returning more than $49.5 million to the state after seeing a record high in the lottery’s history of end-of-the-year dividends.

Director Jeff Anderson announced Tuesday that the state’s lottery saw a 10 percent increase over last year’s dividends. The previous lottery dividend record of $49 million was reached in 2014. Yet a year later, the state’s lottery dividends dropped for the first time in 11 years.

However, Anderson said that this year’s extraordinarily large jackpots helped persuade people to buy lottery tickets - particularly with the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot drawing that was held earlier this year.

Utah residents, whose state outlaws all forms of gambling, crowded Idaho border gas stations and waited several hours in line just to purchase the $2 tickets.

“So subsequently, we had record sales this year too,” Anderson said.

Lottery ticket sales totaled $236.1 million this past year, with Utah residents making up 20 percent of the Gem State’s sales, Anderson added.

This year’s dividends returned roughly $18.5 million to Idaho public schools and another $18.5 million to the state’s permanent building fund, which helps build and maintain state buildings, including at colleges and universities. The remaining $12.4 million will go to the state’s bond levy equalization fund, which helps support school bond levies.

Lottery dividends help fund one-time smaller projects rather than support ongoing teacher salaries.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter praised the lottery’s high year of dividends, saying that Idahoans should feel good about participating in the lottery as long as it continues to uphold its integrity.

“The lottery is the purest form of voluntary taxation,” Otter said, who accepted the dividend checks on Tuesday.

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