Jackpot fatigue keeps lottery sales in slump for 18 states

Michael Symons, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press 4:43 p.m. EDT May 26, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. — The New Jersey Lottery is suffering from jackpot fatigue, but the entire state budget is feeling run down.

States with jackpot fatigue need increasingly bigger jackpots to lure in casual players who buy lottery tickets only when a prize is huge.

People once impressed with a $100 million payout shrug until it reaches $300 million. Then fewer people play, so it takes longer to get to staggering prizes.

Sales of Mega Millions and Powerball multistate games were down 30% through the end of March, New Jersey officials said. At that pace, sales of those games, which have accounted for around 15% of all New Jersey Lottery sales in recent years, would drop by $130 million this fiscal year.

“It appears to be a national phenomenon,” said David Rosen, the Legislature’s budget officer. “Maybe it’s gambling fatigue.”

Total lottery sales in 18 states and the District of Columbia — led by a more than 15% decline in Texas — decreased in fiscal 2014 compared with fiscal 2013, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, a trade group that represents 52 lotteries across the USA and Canada. Fiscal years in all but four states — Alabama, Michigan, New York and Texas — end June 30.

D.C. and 21 states transferred less money into budget coffers in the same period, according to association figures. New Jersey transferred exactly the same amount as the year before because the lottery took $8 million out of its surplus, pushing its balance below $1 million for the first time since at least 1980.

Revenue from the lottery for New Jersey’s state budget last year, $965 million, missed its target by $55 million and would have missed by more without the infusion from the lottery’s surplus account.

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