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Friday, January 26, 2007

Ohio Lotto Outlets Dwindle: Wal-Mart Blamed

CLEVELAND (TDB) -- A new state audit of the Ohio Lottery reveals the gambling monopoly paid schools just 29 cents of every dollar it took in, the lowest percentage of ticket sales used to subsidize education in recent history. The audit also reports the lottery's retail base fell to 8,400 outlets ''down from a peak of 9,800" and blamed Wal-Mart.

But it didn't mention the discount retailer by name. It used a euphemism -- ''national big box retailers" -- to describe the disappearance of Ohio's mom and pop shops.

''Many factors in the national and state economy have a direct impact on revenue generation at the Lottery. As smaller retail outlets close, national big box retailers and bulk consumer product warehouse clubs open in their place. Lottery revenues are negatively impacted by this national and statewide trend because these retailers do not consider lottery products as part of their business model. From 2005 through 2006, the Lottery's retail base hit a low point of 8,400 retailers, down from a peak of 9,800 due in part to this trend," the lottery reports.

Another disturbing number shows up in the lengthy document. Operating expenses were $109.8 million, the highest in the past decade. Payments to education were $646.3 million, up slightly from the previous year. But they were way down from 1997, when $748.5 million was turned over to Ohio's schools.

But the worst trend to show up in the audit is that the percentage of total ticket sales going to education -- the pot of money left after expenses -- has started to erode steadily during this decade. In 1997, 32.5% of the total lottery take went to schools; 33% in 1998; 32.5% in 1999; 31.9% in 2000; 33.2% in 2001; 32% in 2002; 30.9% in 2003; 30.4% in 2004; 29.9% in 2005 and 29.1% last year.

As for the outlets selling tickets, the Lottery said it plans to wage a continuing "struggle to maintain its retailer base. As urban sprawl continues and consumer shopping and spending patterns shift, the Lottery is challenged by how to capitalize in a shifting market environment."

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