TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Lottery, which in the past had resisted joining multi-state games, announced Thursday that it will start selling tickets for the popular Mega Millions.
The change came primarily because of interest from retailers and lottery players and comes less than a year after Mega Millions offered the largest lottery payout of all time. But other factors included the recent decision by California to join Powerball — a move that would have left Florida as the only state that offered just one multi-state lottery game.
Florida will join 42 other states in selling Mega Millions tickets, beginning May 15.
Lottery Secretary Cynthia O’Connell contends that adding Mega Millions is a “winning decision” because it will generate more money for education. The lottery annually transfers more than $1.3 billion a year to public schools.
“The Florida Lottery prides itself on being responsive to our players and retailers,” O’Connell said in a statement. “The addition of Mega Millions to our product mix is something they have requested for many years.”
But the decision to add it also means Lucky Lines bingo-styled game will be gone later this year. There is also a chance that the state will alter or rename the long-standing Mega Money game to avoid confusing players.
“We’ve spent a lot of time wringing our hands (about Mega Money),” Dennis Harmon, the deputy secretary for product development, told state economists evaluating the financial impact of the decision to add Mega Millions.
Mega Millions has a starting jackpot of $12 million and drawings are held on Tuesday and Friday. Powerball — which is already sold in Florida — has a starting jackpot of $40 million and drawings are held on Wednesday and Saturday.
A Mega Millions drawing last March, when three ticket buyers shared a $656 million jackpot, remains the largest lottery payout of all time. Players choose six numbers in the game.
In the past, state lottery officials have resisted adding games because of fears it would erode sales of existing games.
Lottery officials currently estimate that Mega Millions will generate sales of roughly $209 million in its first year of operation - but that it will likely result in an 10.5 percent decline in Powerball ticket sales and an 8.5 percent decline in the sales of Florida Lotto tickets.
The decline of Powerball and Lotto ticket sales is expected to accelerate even further in 2014 and 2015 as Mega Millions takes off. But the estimates drawn up by the lottery still show an overall increase in lottery ticket sales - and a small increase in the money transferred to schools.
Last summer the Florida Lottery wrapped up the most financially successful year in its history. The state-created lottery boosted its overall sales to $4.45 billion, an increase of more than $440 million over the previous fiscal year.
This past month state officials announced that the lottery had its most successful week ever in the sale of scratch-off lottery tickets.