PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

January 28, 2013

SE Texans have scratch and pick fever

Dan Bledsoe
The Port Arthur News

— Jefferson County residents “gotta lotto” reasons to head to wherever scratch-off and quick-pick tickets are sold in Texas.

Whether it’s the socio-demographic makeup and/or proximity to nearby Louisiana casinos across the river, more money is spent on lottery sales in Jefferson County than any of the state’s top 20 populated counties.

A December audit by the Texas Lottery Commission showed that sales in Jefferson County for the 2012 fiscal year reached $40,523,107 or approximately $161 for every man, woman and child.

Going by the 2010 Census Bureau count, that amount per person bests Harris County’s 4.1 million population (No. 1 statewide) all the way down to Smith County’s 209,714 population at No. 22.

Jefferson County ranks No. 18.

Ask someone why they play and how much they spend and you might get an answer so long as they remain anonymous. Out of approximately 80 people approached at convenience stores in Groves and Port Arthur, not one was willing to talk about it openly.

But one store customer in Groves summed it up best for all of them saying “It’s because we’re poor and we wanna be rich.”

Lottery officials hailed last year’s $3.08 billion in sales, a 10.2 percent increase from 2011, as well as announcing that the state has received more than $15 billion in the past 15 years.

The Foundation School Fund has received $15.08 billion since 1997, the year that monies were specifically allocated to the school fund instead of the General Revenue Fund.

“Fifteen billion is a significant milestone that we are proud to have reached,” said Texas Lottery Commission Executive Director Gary Grief. “We appreciate our responsibility to generate revenue for Texas and we continue to strive to increase funding for public education with popular and innovative games.”

Ever since then Gov. Ann Richards purchased the first scratch-off lottery ticket on May 29, 1992 in Oak Hill outside of Austin (she lost), the state has received more than $20 billion in revenue and has paid out more than $39 billion in winnings.

Other Texas Lottery dollars such as unclaimed prizes revert back to the state for programs authorized by the Texas Legislature. Since 2010, a minor portion of Texas Lottery proceeds have benefited the Fund for Veterans Assistance.

From tree to ticket

Scratching off a lottery ticket takes seconds but the creation of a new game takes weeks and months of planning.

“Every year, the Texas Lottery and its vendors meet to develop the scratch-off game introduction schedule for the next fiscal year,” said Kelly Cripe, lottery spokesperson. “Hundreds of game designs are reviewed with various price points, themes and play styles.

“The games that are ultimately selected for inclusion in the game schedule are based upon game attributes that the Texas Lottery and the vendors believe will be successful in Texas.”

Once the plan is approved by Texas Lottery executive management, individual games are ordered through the agency’s contracted instant ticket manufacturing vendors. Currently those vendors are Scientific Games International, Inc., Pollard Banknote Ltd., and GTECH Printing Corp.

The game order documents, called working papers, detail the ticket artwork, prize structure and the programming requirements necessary to ensure that the game plays according to the play instructions printed on the ticket, Cripe said.

Lottery and vendor officials say there are multiple levels of security measures that go into game programming and production, ranging from separation of systems and game data encryption to programming game parameters and prize structure to the printing and distribution of the actual tickets.

Cripe said that an independent, third-party audit firm completes a review of the game files for the printed game to ensure that the game is produced in accordance with the requirements and specifications detailed in the working papers.

“This series of controls and the audit performed on each game ensure the security and integrity of each scratch-off game for Texas Lottery players,” Cripe said.