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Video lottery haul totals $936 million

December 27, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

Video lottery haul totals $936 million



Nearly $62.8 million was spent on traditional lottery games in the Tri-State area last fiscal year, but that paled in comparison with bets made at Charles Town Races, according to lottery officials.

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Gamblers played $936 million in credits at the racetrack for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2000, according to West Virginia Lottery officials.

Of that, almost $857 million was given out in prizes, said Tacy Donovan with the lottery.

That left the track with $79 million from all those buttons punched and mechanical arms pulled, Donovan said.

"We superseded our own projections," said Jim Buchanan, racetrack president.

The track cleared $46 million from video lottery the previous year.

Buchanan attributed the jump in revenue to the addition of slot machines, the type of slot machines and marketing efforts.

The Jefferson County, W.Va., racetrack added 500 machines in December 1999, ending the last fiscal year with 1,431 machines, officials said. The track has 1,940 machines now and expects to have 2,000 by the end of March.

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The track used to have only video machines with a touch screen, but has added real slot machines, the kind on which players can punch a button or pull a mechanical arm to spin a reel inside, Buchanan said. The slots have payout tables in plain view.

Many gamblers are more familiar with the newer slot machines because they've played them in Atlantic City or Delaware, Buchanan said.

"They're easier to understand," he said.

Almost $1.6 million of the video lottery revenue went back to the community.

Donovan said Jefferson County received $1.2 million; Charles Town, $118,252; Ranson, $109,432; Shepherdstown, $49,000; Bolivar, $38,220; and Harpers Ferry, $11,759.

Other lottery sales in the Panhandle came back to earth last fiscal year after soaring the previous year because of a record $295.7 million Powerball jackpot on July 29, 1998.

"That skews everything," said West Virginia Lottery spokeswoman Nancy Bulla.

While statewide Powerball sales average $300,000 to $500,000, the sales for the $295.7 million jackpot drawing were $14 million, Bulla said.

Because West Virginia is the only state in the Tri-State area to sell Powerball tickets, lottery agents near the state border tend to get a lot of out-of-state business, especially when jackpots are high.

The Panhandle's total lottery sales were $12.1 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2000, compared with $16.3 million the previous year, according to West Virginia Lottery.

Once again, Frederick County, Md., topped the Tri-State area with $24.5 million in lottery sales. That included instant scratch-off games and online games such as Keno and daily number picks.

Maryland Lottery spokeswoman Gail Pelovitz said $12 million in winnings were given out in Frederick County over the same period.

The ratio of sales to payouts in traditional lottery games was fairly constant in the Tri-State area, with payouts equaling about half of sales.

Washington County's lottery sales climbed to $17 million after slumping the previous year with $15 million in sales, according to the Maryland Lottery Commission. The slump may have been due to Marylanders heading across the border during that record Powerball jackpot.

In Franklin County, Pa., lottery sales returned to normal last fiscal year with $8 million in sales, said Pennsylvania Lottery spokeswoman Sally Danyluk.

The increase from $7.4 million the previous year was probably a result of more people buying tickets to the $86 million record Super 6 Lotto jackpot on Dec. 1, 1999, Danyluk said.

The Pennsylvania Lottery distributes revenue to local agencies that serve low-income senior citizens based on demand, not local lottery sales, Danyluk said.

Last fiscal year $3.2 million was given to help eligible Franklin County seniors pay for prescription drugs, Danyluk said.

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