Even as residents cut back on spending due to the uncertainties of sagging economy, the Arizona Lottery’s sales are holding up, the latest figures show.
Sales rose 2.4 percent in the fiscal year that ended in June and were up 17.9 percent in the first quarter of this fiscal year as whopping Powerball jackpots helped drive sales.
Two economists said they found those results surprising given the deep recession, but Jeff Hatch-Miller, the lottery’s executive director, pointed to new games and increased advertising that the Legislature made possible by providing more funding flexibility starting in 2008.
“We’re just a leaner, meaner machine than we have been,” he said. “It was a major change in the business strategy that created the change in revenues.”
Sales for the 2009 fiscal year reached $484.5 million, up from $472.9 million the previous year. Lottery sales have increased every fiscal year since 2000 except for a slight dip in 2007.
First-quarter sales for this fiscal year were $126.4 million, up from $107.2 million in the same quarter of last fiscal year.
Tim James, a professor of economics at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, said “There’s a bit of escapism in the idea that you might win a fortune when you’re in absolute dire straits,” James said. “It gives people the chance to get out of their horrible circumstances overnight.”
Dennis Foster, a senior lecturer on economics at Northern Arizona University’s W.A. Franke College of Business, said he was surprised to see lottery sales rise in a poor economy.