TALLAHASSEE — Florida Lottery sales are going flat, a legislative audit reported Thursday.
Growth in the lottery’s annual contributions to education began to slow down in fiscal year 2007-08. Now, officials are reducing their goals for future years.
The audit by the Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability said the lottery is wasting money on excess office space and should review commissions paid to retailers who offer various games. Retailers earn a nickel for every dollar ticket sold and receive an additional 1 percent bonus for redeeming winning tickets.
Auditors said the lottery’s operating expenses continue to increase mostly because of growth in its commission payments. The lottery paid $121 million to vendors for advertising and providing the online and scratch-off games in this fiscal year alone.
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Auditors recommended the department expand its retailer network to increase sales, propose using vending machines for online ticket sales, secure competitive advertising and reduce commissions paid for higher-value scratch off tickets.
Lottery Secretary Leo DiBenigno said that the economy was not the only reason for the slowdown, and that he plans to ask the Legislature to approve some of the recommendations in the audit to help enhance sales, including instant ticket vending machines.
“There would be additional revenue available if we were able to use those tools,” he said.
Lawmakers were concerned as well.
“People that were hoping gambling would pay for education, it’s just not working out that way,” said Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, after hearing about the lottery’s woes at a morning education appropriations committee meeting.
The audit noted that the lottery has introduced new scratch off games, midday drawings and the multistate game, Powerball, in January in hopes of boosting sales in a sluggish economy. Powerball sales totaled $50 million in its first month, but sales decreased in several other existing games.
Florida was previously the only state that did not participate in any multistate games.
Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1986 authorizing the state to operate a lottery with profits aimed at enhancing education.