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Pandemic Slows Sales, But MA Lottery Has Third-Best Fiscal Year

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The Massachusetts Lottery shrugged off COVID-19 to finish the 2020 fiscal year (FY) with its third-highest revenue total.

Figures released last week by State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg show the state lottery generated roughly $979 million in net profit during the latest fiscal year. The fiscal year ran from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.

MA lottery sees over $5 billion in revenue

Revenues amounted to an estimated $5.252 billion, the third-best total in the lottery’s 49-year existence.

Revenues have topped $5 billion for six straight years, according to Goldberg. Records were set in FY 2019 with a net profit of $1.1 billion and revenues of $5.5 billion.

2020’s impressive totals came despite a once-in-a-generation pandemic.

The lottery’s success highlights its strong efforts before early spring’s shutdown, and its follow-up fortune during partial reopenings in June.

Coronavirus impacts ticket sales, keno, draw games

Lottery figures show sales in March, April and May were down a combined $244.6 million from the same stretch in FY 2019.

Keno sales also dropped 7.2%, from $1.055 billion to $979 million. The keno drop-off was attributed to bar and restaurant closures.

Instant ticket sales benefited from a vigorous pre-pandemic showing and boosted June totals, finishing at $3.656 billion, less than a percent behind the previous year’s total.

Mega Millions and Powerball saw major decreases, however.

Smaller jackpots caused the two programs to bring in $141 million less in combined sales than FY 2019. Mega Millions dropped 50%; Powerball sales dipped 47%.

Despite the decreases, the lottery had a strong 2020 fiscal year, paying out $3.866 billion in prizes. That is the third-highest amount in the lottery’s history. Players won 185 prizes of at least $1 million.

The lottery’s executive director, Michael Sweeney, credited “significant” safety measures for helping bring a positive end to what could have been a disastrous period.

“I commend our team members for their ability to quickly and responsibly implement and adapt to new and modified operating procedures during what has been a uniquely challenging time in all of our lives,” said Sweeney.

He also stated,

“The team’s performance under these conditions is the most impressive accomplishment in my time at the lottery. More important than setting records across the board last year, we faced significant operational challenges and overcame them.”

Lottery revenue turns into municipal aid

The news generated differing responses from lawmakers.

“It is shocking. I didn’t expect it to be that high. The news is a great sign to see for the recovery,” said Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Carlos Gonzalez.

State Sen. Eric Lesser, another Democrat, was more reserved.

“It is good news, but it is a small part of the state’s budget. I think it is an encouraging data point but we are not out of the woods yet,” he noted. Also impacting state finances was the mid-March closures of MA’s three casinos, which reopened in July.

Massachusetts cities and towns have received the lottery revenue as unrestricted government aid since 1972.

Figures released by the lottery show that FY 2020 dollars were distributed in enormous chunks to large cities, including $201 million to Boston and $44 million to Worcester, and in smaller amounts to less populated areas.

The smallest town in Massachusetts, Gosnold, received just $2,227.

“I am grateful for our loyal customers and proud of the work the lottery team and dedicated retail partners have done to adjust operations in order to continue to generate essential local aid,” said Goldberg, who chairs the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission.

“At a time when we face mounting challenges, these resources are even more critical for our cities and towns.”

But could those totals be higher?

Goldberg and Sweeney have both pushed lawmakers to allow online lottery sales. The idea has received mixed responses from legislators and Gov. Charlie Baker, whose 2021 budget would allow limited online lottery payments.

Some legislators have cited concerns about eliminating in-person store business. State officials have pointed to an expected overall revenue boost.

“The ability to process cashless payments and to sell our products online would have undoubtedly helped to mitigate our losses,” Goldberg said in April.

George Myers

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George Myers is a writer with extensive experience in both news and sports reporting. He has primarily covered baseball and football, along with the intersection of sports and lawmaking.

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