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SD Lottery brings home the bacon

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By Bob Mercer

Capitol Correspondent

PIERRE -- The bottom line that Gov. Dennis Daugaard gave to the South Dakota Lottery when he took office in 2011 was to make more money for state government.

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The fiscal 2013 sales report delivered Wednesday to the Lottery Commission showed one of the best performances in the agency's 26-year history.

Norm Lingle, the lottery's executive director, said the totals as of the close of business June 30 marked the first time since 2008 that sales of all three games types -- lotto, scratch tickets and video lottery -- were up from the prior fiscal year.

Lotto set a new sales record of $32 million, a 13 percent increase. Powerball led the way with more than $19 million in sales, up 32 percent.

Scratch tickets reached nearly $25.2 million, a 1.7 percent increase but the second-highest year ever for South Dakota. Lingle said the record of just more than $26 million was set in 1988 during the lottery's first year of operation, when the only games allowed by the Legislature were the scratch-off tickets.

Those two sets of games produced approximately $14 million in profits for state government's purposes.

Video lottery, meanwhile, generated $91.4 million in actual revenue for the state's property-tax relief fund that helps fund public K-12 schools. That is a 4.5 percent increase from a year ago and is the largest amount since 2010, when voters passed the smoking ban.

Video-lottery play dropped 17 percent as the ban led to people spending less time in the bars, convenience stores and restaurants that hosted the privately-owned video poker, blackjack and keno machines.

"I think we've bottomed out," Lingle said. He said video still has "a way to go to climb back out of the hole" but it seems to be on the way.

Businesses and state government, which share 50-50 in the money lost by players, took a combined hit of $39 million between the smoking ban and the recession.

"It was quite an impact," said Bob Hartford, of Pierre, the lottery commission's chairman. He previously was executive director for the Music and Vending Association of South Dakota, one of the major organizations representing video lottery businesses.

"That's money we can't get back," Hartford said.

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