Standing at the ready
With only weeks to go before the close of the state’s fiscal year, the New Hampshire Lottery finds itself behind in its revenue goals. Although we on the Lottery Commission are disappointed with the situation, no one is surprised.
But given the challenges of this recession, we’re proud of the fact we’re only down by about 8 percent, while neighboring lotteries are off by significantly more. This is a testament to our employees and our aggressive sales and marketing programs.
We have a mantra for lottery players: “play responsibly.” It’s a reminder for players that the lottery is entertainment, not a retirement plan. A similar caution could be given to state government. The lottery cannot over-perform to the tune of tens of millions of dollars simply because budget writers need it to.
In the past, the commission has taken the position that it cannot consistently meet the ever-inflating revenue expectations put on it by budget writers unless it has player-preferred new products to offer. Our players say they want new kinds of lottery and gaming experiences. We’ve learned if we give them these experiences they will buy. If we don’t, they will go elsewhere with their gaming dollars.
The amount of New Hampshire dollars spent on gaming outside of the state backs up this assertion. If these products are not made available to the lottery, then those same budget writers need to revise their expectations as to what an honest revenue projection should be for a lottery that only offers its customers instant tickets and weekly drawings in a state of 1.1 million people.
Not lost in any of this discussion is the fact that the New Hampshire Lottery exists for one reason: to raise money for local education. Since 1964, we’ve sent more than $1.4 billion back to school districts to pay for educational resources or offset the tax burden of those resources (depending on the priority of the community). By the end of this fiscal year, we will have sold more than $250 million in tickets, putting more than $70 million in net proceeds into the education trust fund.
Should the Legislature pass and the governor sign measures that enact expanding gaming, the New Hampshire Lottery stands ready to provide oversight, marketing and support. Forty-five years ago, New Hampshire defied the naysayers and implemented a secure, profitable and reliable revenue source in the country’s “first lottery.” New Hampshire became the model for 42 other states; today a third of them have some form of expanded gaming.
Each year, the New Hampshire Lottery will strive to maximize the revenues of the products the Legislature authorizes it to responsibly sell. If the governor and Legislature see fit to give the lottery the power to offer enhanced products – such as video lottery terminals – we’re positive we can make the most of these games as well. Doing so would go a long way toward helping the lottery achieve its yearly goals, even in this tough economy and for years to come.
Paul Holloway of Rye is a commissioner on the New Hampshire Lottery Commission. He is also the former president of the National Automobile Dealers Association.