Daily Archives: Jan. 15, 2013

Record lottery ticket sales means $81 million jackpot for state government

TOPEKA – Record sales of lottery tickets led to a record profit for state government last year, the director of the Kansas Lottery told lawmakers Tuesday.

“As a result of the record sales year, the lottery was able to transfer to the state’s financial coffers approximately $72 million, a record amount,” acting Lottery Director Dennis Taylor said in a report to the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.

In addition, lottery winners paid about $9 million in income taxes on their winnings, for a total profit to the state of about $81 million.

The amounts Taylor reported are for traditional lottery sales only, and do not include income from the casino operations that the lottery technically owns and operates.

By law, most lottery income goes to fund economic development projects, with smaller amounts earmarked for the state general fund and prison construction and maintenance. A tiny fraction goes to a fund to fight gambling addiction.

Bigger jackpots in the Powerball and Mega Millions games fueled lottery sales in the 2012 fiscal year, Taylor said.

That included a world record jackpot of $656 million that was shared by three winners – including one in Kansas — in the multi-state Mega Millions game.

Lottery ticket sales in fiscal 2012 totaled slightly more than $246 million. The state paid out $139 million in prizes and about $14.4 million in commissions to retailers.

Taylor reported to the committee on his third day on the job, after moving to the lottery department from the state Department of Administration.

The lottery also worked last year to improve security, including implementing a process called “keyless validation,” Taylor said.

That allows players to validate their own tickets by running them under a bar-code reader before they turn them in for payment.

That guards against the possibility that unscrupulous clerks who work for lottery retailers could tell customers they had lost, and then pocket the winnings themselves.

In addition, the lottery is using undercover investigators to root out another way of cheating at the sales counter called “micro-scratching,” Taylor said.

“Micro-scratching is the term used when a clerk removes a tiny amount of latex from the play area of a scratch ticket in an effort to determine if the ticket has a prize,” Taylor said in his report. “If the ticket has a prize, the clerk purchases and cashes the ticket. If there is no prize, the ticket is sold to an unsuspecting customer.”

Brownback makes pitch for austerity to freshmen lawmakers

Gov. Sam Brownback asks new lawmakers to join him in push for smaller state government.

TOPEKA – Previewing his priorities for the legislative session, Gov. Sam Brownback asked freshman lawmakers Tuesday to stand with him in cutting the size of government.

Support from the freshman class will be crucial for Brownback as he moves to implement his vision of a more austere state that costs less, taxes less and does less.

More than a third of this year’s senators and representatives will be new to their jobs, following court-ordered redistricting last year and a heavily funded, largely successful effort by business interests to replace moderate Republicans with conservatives.

In the House, 49 of 125 representatives are freshmen; in the Senate, it’s 16 of 40.

Brownback said that in an era of global competitiveness, government must follow ongoing business trends toward cutting spending wherever possible.

“You’re seeing things in the United States that have to be globally competitive have really leaned down their operations and focused on what it is we’re about,” Brownback told the new lawmakers. “To me one of the missing things that government has not done, for the last 50 years probably, is look at its own efficiencies, or inefficiencies if you want to look at it that way.”

Now, he said, the austerity philosophy is starting to take hold in government, which has traditionally run on a “cost-plus” basis where the government decided what it needed to do and then levied the taxes to do it.

“What you’re seeing now taking place, and you’re right at the front end of it, is that government at all levels, local, state and soon to be federal, saying oh, wait a minute, that era is over,” Brownback said.

Like businesses, states will have to compete with each other and other countries to attract and keep businesses and people, he said.

“We’ve got to produce the best educational system, the best highways, the best public-safety structure we possibly can,” Brownback said. “And we’ve got to bring our price point down so that we can have a tax structure that attracts people to the state of Kansas, ‘cause they can go other places, and do, and we’ve seen that.”

One of Wichita’s new legislators, Republican Mark Kahrs, said he is looking forward to trying to meet the governors challenge as a member of the Appropriations Committee, a key panel in the crafting of the state budget.

Kahrs said he sees this as a “unique time to serve in the legislature” because of the large number of new members and while “facing deep financial crisis in our country and our state.”

“Where there is waste, we need to eliminate it and where we can consolidate, we need to consolidate,” Kahrs said.