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Raffle brings in less money for veterans than hoped

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Jan. 17, 2012 at 11:54 am |
January 17, 2012 11:54 am

A Lottery raffle benefiting veterans is bringing in less money than hoped.

Lawmakers told Washington’s Lottery last year to sell $10 raffle tickets and directed proceeds of the annual game to the Veterans Innovations Program, which hands out small grants of cash to help veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with rent, gas, school and other expenses. The program otherwise received no new funding in the current state budget.

Tickets went on sale in September for a Nov. 11 drawing of winners in the “Hometown Heroes” raffle. The Lottery expected to raise at least $430,000 for the program if the 300,000 tickets sold out.

But ticket sales were lackluster, and the Lottery ramped up advertising in hopes of juicing sales. In the end, 98 percent of tickets sold but only after advertising spending rose to roughly $1 million, the Lottery says. Players won more than $1.4 million in prizes.

Total funding for the veterans program, the Lottery predicts now: about $240,000.

Officials today announced more than half of that was transferred to the state Department of Veterans Affairs as a first installment — after a ceremony complete with an oversized check and dignitaries including “First Mike” Gregoire and the sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma.

“We know there is a great base for a veterans raffle,” Conway told me today, referring to Washington’s former service members, including more than 60,000 who served in Iraq or Afghanistan alone. “I feel that this will grow. That’s my sense of it, that we didn’t meet our expectation but certainly we have a good foundation to build on.”

The Lottery expects advertising to be more expensive this fall with the presidential campaign in full swing, so lawmakers are looking at providing more leeway in the schedule. Lottery spokesman Arlen Harris said an adjusted timeframe could also help with sales.

He said the Lottery is also looking at changing the name. The “Hometown Heroes” designation may have been confusing.

“Next year we’re going to call it the veterans’ raffle,” he said.

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