Lottery boosts municipal revenues

Photo Courtesy of Creative Common Images

By Patrick Lovett
Boston University Statehouse Program

This article was originally published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

BOSTON — Even without winning the jackpot, Massachusetts residents will still benefit from the state lottery in the form of local aid — a program that contributed nearly $1 billion last year to cities and towns across the state to use as they please.

In fiscal year 2017, Hampshire County cities and towns received $24,928,316 in lottery aid, according to the Massachusetts State Lottery. The funds are taken from a percentage of lottery revenue and added to the state’s Unrestricted General Government Aid program. That program, in turn, distributes funds to local communities.

The Massachusetts Lottery has reported an increase in sales this year already, up $15.4 million from last year at this time. With an uptick in sales due to the recent historic Mega Millions jackpot the difference will likely increase.

A lottery spokesperson said Tuesday ’s Mega Millions drawing generated $20,797,227 in sales, about $12.8 million coming on Tuesday alone. At one point, the Massachusetts Lottery reported it was selling nearly 13,000 tickets every minute.

Christine Thomas, the manager at Amherst Center Store, said more people bought lottery tickets over the past week than she’s ever seen in her three years there.

“(Ticket sales) have been through the roof,” she said. “Literally every customer we had yesterday bought a ticket, whether they were there to buy cigarettes, food, or whatever.”

According to the spokesperson, Northampton received about $4.2 million in local aid from lottery revenues in fiscal year 2017. Northampton Finance Director Susan Wright said that makes up an essential part of the city’s approximately $95 million general fund budget.

“It’s absolutely important for our budget,” she said. “We use it to help fund our operating costs.”

In Amherst, over half of local aid came from the lotteryfunded UGGA program this fiscal year. The town routinely receives the most unrestricted general aid in the county — over $8 million each of the past three years. If lottery revenues continue to rise through the end of the fiscal year in June, so will general aid.

A ticketholder in South Carolina won the $1.537 billion Mega Millions jackpot Tuesday night, while two tickets purchased in the Massachusetts towns of Wilmington and Bridgewater reportedly won $1 million prizes.

Lottery hopefuls will now turn to the Powerball, which will have an estimated $750 million jackpot on Saturday, a prize that will likely to push up sales — and local aid.

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