Investigations

Pennsylvania Lottery money by the numbers

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) - A $2 ticket to financial paradise. 

In the same week, nearly $2 billion in Mega Millions and almost $1 billion in the Powerball. 

"It really gets all kinds of people playing, people who wouldn't ordinarily play our games to come in and get engaged in our products," said Drew Svitko, executive director of the Pennsylvania Lottery. 

But those huge lotteries that get family, friends, and co-workers dreaming are the result of scheming. 

"We added a couple balls to the mix, and that's done to get bigger jackpots. We know bigger jackpots attract more people to play the game, and that's the rationale behind that," said Svitko. 

Though billed as $1.6 billion, that's hype. That would be paid out over 30 years in an annuity. 

The cash value is $877 million, and most winners choose cash. 

Svitko admits they probably should. 

"Financial advisers often advise people to take the cash and invest more aggressively because our investments are to be stable but guaranteed and very conservative," said Svitko.

A St. Patrick's Day winner who bought a ticket in Manheim, Lancaster County, got $274 million in cash.

Of that, the state collected $8.4 million in taxes, and a whole lot more. 

"Benefits Older Pennsylvanians isn't just a tagline, it's why we do what we do, and we're passionate about it," said Svitko. 

The 1972 law creating the Pennsylvania Lottery requires its proceeds fund senior programs. 

Midstate counties all got millions last year for prescription drugs, Meals on Wheels, rides to doctor appointments, and property tax relief. 

Statewide for seven straight years, the gray got lots of green, more than a billion dollars each year. 

"Our job is to generate as much money as we can for older Pennsylvanians," said Svitko. 

Pennsylvanians never "stop scratchin'." They bought $2.8 billion in scratch-off games, or nearly 70 percent of the $4.2 billion spent on lottery tickets last year. 

But where is all that cash going?

$2.7 billion, or 65 percent goes to prize winners. 

Nearly $302 million goes to commissions for about 10,000 vendors. 

Another $50 million spend on advertising, radio, TV, billboards, and store signage. 

"We're selling a product that people don't need. We're selling an entertainment product, and people have lots of other options for entertainment, and so we have to maintain a brand and stay top of mind so when people have an extra dollar or two, they want to spend it on the lottery," said Svitko. 

The Lottery also spent $23 million on its 240 employees, an average of $95,452.45 per worker. Is that too much?

"We are one of the most efficient lotteries in the world. Operating expenses as a percentage of sales are among the lowest anywhere: two percent, less than two percent," said Svitko.

With several billion-dollar lotteries already this year, seniors have reason to feel lucky. 

"These huge jackpots are usually the difference between us having a good year and a great year," said Svitko.


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