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WYOMING NOTEBOOK: Lottery puts money back into state’s economy

First, the disclaimer: I am a member of the Wyoming Lottery Corporation board of directors.

That said, this declaration should not be surprising: I am sold on the Wyoming Lottery.

That was not always the case.  On two separate occasions — in 2009 and 2011 — I voted against bills in the Wyoming State House of Representatives that proposed creation of a state lottery. I was no longer in the Legislature when establishment of a Wyoming Lottery was finally approved in 2013.

It makes perfect sense, then, that you would ask why Gov. Matt Mead would appoint me to the original WLC board in July of 2013. That’s a question for the governor. All I can say is I’m glad he did.

The Wyoming Lottery is a self-made success. It is not a state agency. It has no state appropriation, no state employees, no state offices. It is accountable to the Legislature and the public through a system of audits and reports with the charge to provide public entertainment and maximize revenues and net proceeds for transfer to the state.

Like any start-up, the WLC organized around a business plan, borrowed money, hired employees, rented office space and went to work as an entrepreneurial enterprise.

Just three years ago on Aug. 24, 2014, the first lottery tickets were sold in Wyoming. From Day One, Wyoming people showed their support, enabling the WLC to pay off a $3 million bank loan in early 2016. Now, on the third anniversary of ticket sales in the state, the lottery is debt-free and making transfer payments to the State Treasurer’s Office on a quarterly basis.

In Fiscal Year 2017 (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017), total sales of the four lottery games in the Wyoming portfolio exceeded projections to hit $25.3 million. That level of sales in FY 2017 produced net proceeds for transfer to the state of $2.64 million. Since inception, the lottery has funded transfers totaling $4.6 million — dollars that are welcomed by Wyoming cities, towns and counties, the lottery’s beneficiaries.

The lottery’s economic benefit to the state goes far beyond the transfers. These are some of the numbers that don’t always command attention.

• The WLC has contracted with 452 retailers in the state to sell lottery tickets. The commission paid to retailers is 6 percent of the sale of every ticket, plus a 1 percent validation on big winning tickets. Since the launch three years ago, the commissions paid to retailers in the state amount to $4,750,120. Park County retailers alone have been paid $131,059 in commissions on $2,184,170 in sales.

• And there have been winners. Lots of them, all tracked to point of sale. The total amount won in Wyoming since launch is a whopping $34,574,568.  That’s 2,362,617 winners, and Park County has had 68,543 of them.

• Big jackpots stimulate sales, and big jackpots have winners. Twelve jackpots over $500,000 have been paid on Wyoming lottery tickets — four of them over $1 million (tickets sold in Casper, Cheyenne, Green River and Rawlins).

• A new business creates jobs, and the Wyoming lottery’s presence in the state has accounted for 19 new jobs. The economic boost to Wyoming extends to numerous contracts with in-state firms and the sponsorship dollars committed to events and programs all around the state.

People in Wyoming wanted the lottery. The Legislature took some convincing over a period of years before it signed on. Making cities, towns and counties the primary beneficiaries was probably the winning formula in legislative success.

In the end, the numbers put up by the Wyoming Lottery in the last three years validate the Legislature’s decision. We can only guess at the previous leakage from the Wyoming economy with another state lottery virtually surrounding Wyoming on all sides.

The Wyoming lottery keeps Wyoming dollars at home. 

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