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Lottery profits up; ticket sales down
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Georgia Lottery:
ATLANTA (AP) - The Georgia Lottery posted a 12th consecutive year of profit growth last year, despite a slight decrease in ticket sales, game officials announced Wednesday.

The lottery rang up more than $3.6 billion in ticket sales for the fiscal year that ended June 30, down about $17 million from the previous year. But the games also brought in $883.8 million in profits, up from $872 million in 2009.

That money was transferred to the state to be used for HOPE scholarships and the prekindergarten program, spokeswoman Tandi Reddick said.

The addition of Powerball in Georgia this year helped sales, said president and CEO Margaret DeFrancisco. The slight slip in revenue - equal to less than two days' worth of ticket sales - was the result of a decline in the popularity of scratch-off tickets, she said.

"The instant category is the strongest sales category - that's why we saw that slight dip," she said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Even though there was an increase in profits, the HOPE scholarship program is having to dip into its reserves for the first time in nearly a decade. The growth of the scholarship program has outpaced lottery sales in the last few years as enrollment in the state's 35 public colleges is expected to soar to nearly 320,000 this fall.

Lottery-funded education programs - including free prekindergarten for thousands of Georgia 4-year-olds, HOPE scholarships and grants for technical college students - will cost $100 million more than what lottery ticket sales can fund for the fiscal year that began July 1. That means tapping into a $900 million reserve fund for the first time since 2001.

It also means reducing textbook stipends for the more than 200,000 college students on the HOPE scholarship starting in 2012, the first step in a series of "triggers" set up by state law to rein in HOPE spending once the cost outpaces available money. The $300-per-year book money will be cut in half for all HOPE recipients who aren't eligible for federal assistance for low-income students.

The state has had to raid the rainy-day account to pay for lottery-funded programs three times in the lottery's 17-year history: in 1997, 1998 and 2001, according to state documents.

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