The improved economy and lower gas prices have likely contributed to a record sales of Maine lottery tickets in the past year.

People spent $251.9 million on Maine lottery tickets in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, easily beating the previous record of $230 million set in 2007.

That means lottery sales, which fell slightly during the Great Recession, have returned to pre-recession levels.

Like any other business that depends on disposable income, the Maine lottery is affected by the economy, said Gregg Mineo, director of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations. More disposable income means people may be more inclined to purchase a ticket or two from the more than 1,300 lottery agents around the state.

Gas prices affect lottery sales because people can buy game tickets at many gas stations. Average gas prices in Maine in fiscal 2015 were lower than any year since the Great Recession, which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009.

“Maybe they pay a little less for gas, so they walk in and buy a lottery ticket,” said Mineo.

Players also set a record, receiving $156.2 million in winnings, before taxes, from the lottery’s draw and instant win games.

Retailers in fiscal 2015 earned $16.8 million in commissions – also a record high. The lottery contributed a record $54 million to Maine’s General Fund; since 2005, the average transfer has been $50 million.

In addition, the lottery transferred $647,500 to the state of Maine’s Outdoor Heritage Fund through the sale of select instant tickets. That’s the highest amount transferred to the fund since 2010.

The current Outdoor Heritage game, called Moose Moolah, is a $1 instant ticket. The agency runs one such instant game at a time, changing it about every six months. The Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund has helped fund wildlife and conservation projects throughout the state since it was created by the Maine Legislature in 1996.

Mineo said there would be more games and bigger prizes announced in the coming year.

The Maine State Lottery was established in 1974 by Maine voters in a statewide referendum.