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Lottery machines have been humming across Massachusetts since Saturday as excitement builds for Tuesday night's $1.6 billion Mega Millions drawing, a world record sum for any lottery jackpot game, and the boost in business is good news for the Massachusetts Lottery's bottom line.
The Lottery was selling roughly 11,000 Mega Millions tickets for Tuesday night's drawing each minute by Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Massachusetts Lottery Executive Director Michael Sweeney said Mega Millions sales have been "extremely robust, to say the least, particularly over the last 10 days or two weeks." On Saturday, when Tuesday night's $1.6 billion jackpot was announced, the Mass. Lottery processed more than 11 million transactions.
As of about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Massachusetts Lottery had done more than $13.4 million in sales for Tuesday night's drawing, a Lottery spokesman said. The Lottery's record for a single drawing was $32.97 million in sales for the Jan. 13, 2016 Powerball drawing that topped $1 billion, Sweeney said.
To play Mega Millions, a player must pick five different numbers from 1 to 70 and one number from 1 to 25. The player wins the jackpot if they correctly match all six numbers. Tickets cost $2. The odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 302,575,350 and the odds of winning any prize are 1 in 24.
If the jackpot is won in Massachusetts, it will be subject to the state's 5.1 percent personal income tax rate. If the winner takes the lump sum of about $913 million, the state could expect to see a revenue bump of about $46.56 million — almost equal to the annual budget of the secretary of state's office.
Sweeney said the Lottery has been able to keep up with the torrid pace of Mega Millions sales because the agency recently replaced almost all of its old "blue box" terminals that took up lots of space in stores and went out of service routinely.
"Had we not did what we did with the terminals, we absolutely would have been losing money for the commonwealth and cities and towns over the last two weeks, no doubt about it, because of down service time," Sweeney said at a Lottery Commission meeting Tuesday morning. He said that if the Lottery was still using its old terminals, "I'd be sleeping less than I am currently."
Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who oversees the Lottery, said the new terminals are "so much faster, give us so much more information and make a significant difference." She and Sweeney said all but a handful of the old machines have been replaced.
"We could have seen people walk away because machines would have broken and we wouldn't have been able to fix them fast enough," Goldberg said.
The influx of sales driven by the Mega Millions record jackpot — and a $620 million Powerball jackpot to be drawn on Wednesday — is already helping the Massachusetts Lottery. Through the first three months of fiscal year 2019, the Lottery's roughly $259.7 million in profits were lagging behind the previous fiscal year by $12.2 million, Sweeney reported to the commission on Tuesday.
Lottery sales in September were up $18 million over September 2017 and monthly estimated profit was about $700,000 greater than in September 2017, Sweeney said. He predicted that the Lottery's year-to-date sales and profit figures will "change fairly significantly" before the commission's next meeting as a result of the Mega Millions jackpot.
Rep. Keiko Orrall, a Republican running for treasurer against Goldberg, attended Tuesday's Lottery Commission meeting and told the News Service afterwards it was "astonishing" that the commission didn't mention the fact that it needs to find a new home for its South Shore regional office, data center and warehouse before the lease for the current facilities expire in January.
"I think it speaks to the mismanagement of the Lottery. They're taking a very successful operation and putting it at risk by not having a plan," Orrall said. "There didn't seem to be any hint of concern."
The Lottery, which is in the midst of relocating its headquarters from Braintree to Dorchester, has not pinned down new locations for its South Shore regional office, data center, warehouse and more. Those functions are currently run out of the Braintree headquarters but after the property managers reneged on their rent proposal, the Lottery opted to seek new locations before the current lease expires in January.
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