Lottery to phase in bigger instant-win prizes

Scratch-off games vying with Virginia

Staff WriterSeptember 13, 2007 

Increases to instant-win prizes won't be quite so instant.

N.C. Education Lottery Director Tom Shaheen said Wednesday that all scratch-off games for sale in North Carolina won't have bigger prize payouts until early spring of 2008.

But more will be available in the next few months.

Instant-win games are a mainstay of the lottery, making up nearly 60 percent of tickets sold. But sales have lagged behind projections, in part because neighboring states offer better odds, Shaheen said.

Even a $2 win helps drive regular players to buy more tickets, he said.

"They want to win a prize," he said.

The legislature allowed the lottery to increase prize payouts -- and decrease the percentage of profits set aside for education -- in this year's budget.

But the lottery spent leftover money in its 2006 budget to boost prizes on a handful of games already out.

So far, about five of the 35 or so scratch-off games have the higher prize payouts, including Big Ol' Bucks, Lightning Strikes and Summertime Cash.

Shaheen said the others will start appearing on the market in October, in part because it takes two to three months to develop a new game.

He noted that he recently spent several hours watching the staff of the Border Station, a store in Moyock that sells North Carolina and Virginia lottery tickets because it straddles the border.

He said that customers preferred the Virginia tickets.

"It is pretty much ingrained in players' heads that North Carolina does not pay out as much," he said.

Staff writer Ryan Teague Beckwith can be reached at 836-4944 or ryan.teague.beckwith@ newsobserver.com.

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