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Someone will strike it rich in raffle, but it won’t be veterans program

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Jan. 3, 2013 at 9:00 am |
January 28, 2013 6:28 pm

UPDATED to fix winning number and note the Lottery’s release of incorrect numbers.

UPDATED with winning number and comments from Conway

The holder of ticket No. 023916 is the million-dollar winner of the state Veterans Raffle, which announced the winning numbers today.

But the intended beneficiaries — veterans — are not likely to see much of a jackpot due to disappointing ticket sales.

Players bought 127,924 of the 200,000 tickets. At $10 a pop, that means the Lottery expects to have raised enough to cover expenses and prizes — the $1 million grand prize plus $40,000 in smaller payouts — without leaving much left over for the Veterans Innovations Program that awards small grants to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

“It’s definitely not what we were looking for, what we were hoping for,” Lottery spokesman Arlen Harris said.

He said it’s hard to say why the raffle created by state lawmakers hasn’t taken off, but said other states have mostly not found great success with similar programs.

The inaugural raffle last year raised $247,000 for the veterans program, less than expected but still welcomed by a program that had been cut off from the state budget. That first contest sold 98 percent of tickets — but only after a major advertising effort that ate into proceeds.

The raffle got a new name and new dates intended to drive up sales, but cut way back on advertising. Harris said that was because a frequent critic of the agency sued over its first-year promotional effort and the way it had characterized the spending.

After the latest results, the Lottery is turning to the Legislature for bigger changes. Harris said officials would talk to lawmakers including the sponsor of the legislation calling for the raffle, Sen. Steve Conway of Tacoma, to find a way to either improve it, or eliminate it and identify another source of Lottery money for the veterans program.

“We are using a lot of resources (on the raffle), and of course we’ve been cut like every other agency,” Harris said. “We are down 12 staff from three years ago and we’ve had $2 million additional cut from our operating budget.”

Washington is home to more than 60,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan alone, and Conway is convinced the large military and veteran population would buy tickets if they knew about the raffle.

“We’ve had two years here where we’ve had to struggle to reach them, and I think it’s probably going to call for a re-evaluation,” Conway said.

“It’s time to look at it and ask ourselves, is there a better way?”

He said he’s not opposed to diverting some general lottery proceeds to veterans, but expects that would run into opposition from those who want the games devoted solely to education.

The Lottery initially released incorrect winning numbers, then corrected them, blaming the error on a computer malfunction.

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