The lottery is a hot topic around these parts. Many Georgians are daily players of the various high-odds games. For the state, the Georgia Lottery also funds the HOPE college scholarship program and Georgia’s pre-kindergarten program.
The lottery’s high-energy radio and television advertisements fill airtime on several local stations, touting its games and payouts.
One such ad caught the attention of Politifact Georgia reader Greg Queen, who asked us in an email to check out the numbers.
The ad says that the Georgia Lottery Corp. paid out $2.3 billion in prizes during the last fiscal year.
"I find (the figure of $2.3 billion in prizes paid) hard to believe," Queen emailed us.
Queen also questioned whether the Georgia Lottery was including money paid out as part of multistate games such as Mega Millions and Powerball.
PolitiFact Georgia has previously checked a couple of state lottery claims. We researched the experience of its director in relation to that of other state lottery leaders. We also checked another reader’s request about whether the lottery was overstating its odds by claiming prizes of another ticket or the face value of a ticket as "wins."
We wondered whether the lottery’s $2.3 billion figure was accurate and exactly what was included in that amount.
Our reader, Queen, saw the ad first on Atlanta’s ABC affiliate, WSB-TV; he later heard it on the station’s radio partner, AM 750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB. PolitiFact Georgia happened to be up late one night consulting our psychic for winning Powerball numbers when we also saw the ad on TV.
In addition to the $2.3 billion statement, the ad also includes information about payouts and winnings for some of its games.
We checked with lottery representatives for more information.
Spokeswoman Tandi Reddick told us that the $2.3 billion paid out in prizes for the last fiscal year (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012) includes prizes paid to Georgia winners of games played in multiple states, such as Mega Millions and Powerball. For Mega Millions, the prizes won in Georgia reached $79.5 million; the total was $55.5 million for Powerball.
The jackpot prizes for those multistate games are funded proportionately by all member states based on that state’s games sales for the particular drawing, Reddick said. All other prizes for Mega Millions (played in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands) and Powerball (played in 43 states, D.C. and the Virgin Islands) are also shared by participating states. Those games are administered by the nonprofit Multi-State Lottery Association, made up of member state lotteries that offer one or more of the multistate games.
Also of note, the $2.3 billion figure quoted in the ad does not include tickets paid as prizes, Reddick said.
So how does the lottery pay for all those prizes? On the income side, the Georgia Lottery recorded total ticket sales for fiscal 2012 of $3.835 billion, according to the lottery’s 2012 financial statements.
So does the Georgia Lottery’s claim hit the jackpot?
In TV and radio ads, the Georgia Lottery Corp. claims that it paid out $2.3 billion in prizes during the last fiscal year. The figure appears to be true but is padded to include amounts paid out for Georgia winners of the multistate games, Powerball and Mega Millions.
We rated the Georgia Lottery’s claim Mostly True.