DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Lottery posted record sales in fiscal 2012, generating millions of dollars more than expected for the state budget, a tourism program and a veterans' trust fund set up by the state.
Despite a slow national economy, the lottery pulled in $310.9 million in total sales, the third consecutive year that the lottery has achieved record combined sales from its core products. Sales were up 14.5 percent from fiscal 2011.
Prizes to players in 2012 also reached a peak at $182.4 million.
The lottery games returned $88.7 million to the state during the year, including $78.8 million given to the state from lottery proceeds and $9.9 million earned from tax withholdings from prizes. The money goes into the state's general fund and to the Vision Iowa program, which funds tourism and community betterment projects. The Iowa Veterans Trust Fund also received $2.7 million.
Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich says it's not surprising that the lottery did well, even as consumers watch their spending elsewhere.
"When things are down, you're looking for simple pleasures. For a few dollars you get a dream, you get some positive thoughts," he said.
Nationwide, lotteries saw increases of 4 to 5 percent. Iowa's near 15 percent increase can be attributed to the significant chatter generated by large jackpots and an unusual unclaimed Hot Lotto jackpot that attracted public attention.
The Hot Lotto prize was initially claimed by a blind trust in Belize, but was relinquished in January when the winner declined to step forward. Iowa Lottery officials require winners to make their names public.
Also adding to the record sales were multi-state games — Mega Millions paid out a record $656 million, and a group of Quaker Oats employees in Cedar Rapids won the $241 million Powerball jackpot.
Rich said those types of events prompt people to buy more tickets and that means more winners.
The top-selling product in Iowa is instant-scratch tickets, which grew more than 14 percent to a record $188.8 million in sales for the year. Powerball tickets grew to $57.9 million from $47.1 million the year before, and Mega Millions rose to $22.3 million from $16.1 million a year earlier.