Stratford resident William Clark said he thinks the Connecticut Lottery is more popular than ever, and Lottery officials say he’s right.
Clark had just stopped at Martin’s News & Cigarette Outlet in Stratford to spend $11.50 on lottery tickets, playing a variety of games. He said in 2009, he won $2,500 on the Play 4 game, but never won a big prize.
Still, he keeps playing, and admits he spends even more when the jackpots get really huge. “I never win, but I bet on them,” he said.
As the Connecticut Lottery approaches a milestone next month, officials say state residents are spending more on them than ever.
“On Feb. 16, we’ll turn 40 years old,” said Diane Patterson, vice president of marketing and sales at the Connecticut Lottery Corporation in Rocky Hill.
Statistics posted on the Connecticut Lottery’s website say in Fiscal Year 1972, its first year, sales of the weekly Connecticut Lotto totaled $17,288,925. But Patterson said sales for Fiscal Year 2011, which ended on June 30 of last year, topped $1 billion for the first time, and Fiscal Year 2012 is already looking like it will set even higher record sales.
“We had a very good first two quarters and a very good holiday season,” she said.
In November, Connecticut saw its biggest lottery prize ever, who work for a Greenwich investment firm. And already this year, the state had its first $1 million winner, a woman cement truck driver from Ashford, Marilyn Rossi, who bought the winning ticket for the Super Draw game.
Patterson said the Connecticut Lottery Corporation was still preparing its annual report for 2011, but she could report that the lottery paid $289,300,000 for that fiscal year to the state’s general fund to support state programs and reduce taxes.
The next big lottery news starts on Jan. 15, when tickets go on sale for the newly revamped, multi-state PowerBall game.
The price of a PowerBall ticket will go from $1 to $2, and the minimum guaranteed jackpot prize will jump from $20 million to $40 million. Patterson said other changes will include more chances to win more than $1 million on each drawing, and the overall odds of winning will improve, going from the current 1 in 35 odds to 1 in 31.
“So it’s going to be a little easier to win a prize in PowerBall,” she said.
Patterson added the Lottery disclaimer against excessive betting. “We remind our customers to play responsibly, and you have to be over 18,” she said.
Chris Mierzejewski, the co-owner of Martin’s News & Cigarettes, said he expects the change in the PowerBall to increase the number of tickets he sells.
“The lottery is one of the main parts of our business,” he said. “A lot of people wait till the jackpots get high before they play.”
Mierzejewski said many of his regular customers play the same numbers every day. He couldn’t guess how many lottery tickets his store sells each week, but it seemed to him that sales were going up.
Clark said he would continue to play the lottery, even though he doesn’t think of himself as lucky.
“If I was lucky, I’d be a rich man by now,” he said. “I keep trying, though.”