March 11, 2012

New England starts lottery with 'for life' prize

The Associated Press

ROCKY HILL, Conn. — Lottery officials in the six New England states have joined forces for the first time to offer a regional game, hoping to leverage the buying power and excitement of more than 14.4 million residents and provide a substantially larger prize to players and much-needed revenues for their states.

Beginning today, the Lucky for Life tickets will go on sale for $2 apiece in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. The top prize is $1,000 a day for a winner's life.

The concept has been successful in Connecticut, which has had a state draw game and scratch tickets that offer a guaranteed payout for life since 2009. Anne Noble, president and CEO of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, said the regional version comes at a time when the seasoned New England lotteries -- most about 40 years old -- are looking for something fresh and innovative to spur growth.

"Lotteries, as they age, look for more and more exciting ways to deliver new products to their players and this was a way to do that," she said. "The smaller states can't deliver a prize this big to their players, so it required a collaboration."

Putting together a six-state game has been complicated, considering the state laws and approval processes governing the different lotteries. Officials from the six lotteries had to design a game based on the region's population and estimated sales, and then design a prize structure that they believe can be supported by that population and sales.

They've collaborated over the past nine months on everything from the game's logo to the rules.

New England lottery officials knew they had to come up with something different that would generate a lot of interest and a large amount of winnings, said Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery.

With the advent of large multi-state lotteries such as Powerball, which has 44 participating states including the District of Columbia and massive jackpots that begin at $40 million, it would be difficult for the six New England states to come up with a large enough jackpot given the region's population figures.

"You have to innovate. It has to be a little bit different every so often. You have to tweak it," McIntyre said. "What used to work for a jackpot prize 20 years ago -- you'd have lines at a convenience store for $20 million. Now $20 million doesn't get noticed."

The lottery industry grew substantially in the first part of this century as states expanded their instant ticket portfolios, offering higher and higher prices for tickets in the process, Noble said. Connecticut, for example, introduced a $30 ticket years ago.

"Massachusetts has topped out on its high payouts," she said. "So lotteries are being forced to look for other means of growth, other than the instant portfolio. So we're looking at what can we do to make the (draw tickets) more attractive to players."

Besides the prospect of winning $1,000 a day -- actually $7,000 a week before taxes -- McIntyre said he expects New Englanders will want to play a regional game because they feel a kinship with their neighboring states.

For example, in New Hampshire, he said, about 80 percent of residents are originally from New Hampshire or another New England state, which means they likely would be inspired upon hearing about someone winning somewhere else in New England.

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