Despite a tepid economy, Massachusetts State Lottery officials rang up increased profits, thanks in part to more ticket sales on the North Shore.
Local lottery agents saw a slight increase in spending in most communities except in Danvers, Swampscott, Marblehead and Topsfield.
"The North Shore actually did better than the lottery on gross sales," said state Treasurer Tim Cahill, the chairman of the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission.
North Shore lottery agents raked in $500,000 more in fiscal 2010 than in fiscal 2009, getting $160.7 million in 2010.
Statewide, the lottery rang up a $903 million profit in fiscal 2010. Those profits are up $44 million or 5.1 percent over last year. Profits were up despite flat spending.
How much goes to local cities and towns in local aid is based on a complex formula that considers real estate values and population. About 70 percent of what is spent on the lottery goes to the players.
That leaves a fraction of the lottery's take to supplement municipal budgets. Peabody, which spent $50.8 million this year, got $6.4 million in local aid from the lottery. Salem spent $30.4 million and got $6.1 million.
The lottery said it was able to increase profits because of the addition of Powerball, additional Keno agents, a $10 scratch ticket and a $13.8 million reduction in spending. Lottery profits go to local aid, an arts lottery, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling.
Both the North Shore and the Merrimack Valley benefited by the addition of Powerball, a multistate game that agents began selling on Jan. 31.
"You had to go to New Hampshire to play Powerball before," Cahill said.
Of the North Shore's four largest communities, Beverly saw a $371,000, 1.4 percent jump in sales from fiscal 2009 to fiscal 2010. While the numbers were up in the city, at least one local lottery agent hasn't noticed the difference.
"I haven't seen any change, we are pretty consistent," said Chris Palazola, owner of ChrisPy's Liquors & Lottery at 335 Rantoul St. Many players are regulars, and their habits have not changed, he said. There is usually a bump in sales around the first of the month when players get their paychecks. When told spending on the lottery in Beverly was up slightly, Palazola said the change was not noticeable.
"Powerball has been a nice bonus," Palazola said, "but the problem is people drop the other games." The Megabucks jackpot has barely budged.
Instant games account for the lion's share of Palazola's and other agents' sales. Palazola sells about 33 types of scratch tickets that range in price from $1 to $20 apiece. He said people prefer them because they like the instant gratification.
Peabody lottery agents topped the amount gambled on the North Shore with $50.8 million this fiscal year, up from nearly $50.2 million last year. It's an increase of 1.2 percent. Peabody lottery agents sold $34.3 million in scratch tickets, more than was spent on all types of lottery in Salem, which saw sales of nearly $30.4 million in 2010.
Of the smaller communities, Hamilton saw the largest percentage increase in lottery spending on the North Shore, with a 20 percent rise from 2009 to 2010. About $1.75 million was gambled on the lottery in town in 2010.
"About level as far as I know," Dick Regan, the manager of the Hamilton Community Package Store, said of lottery spending in his store.
Ipswich saw a big gain in lottery sales with nearly $6.9 million, up nearly 7 percent from 2009.
Cahill said spending on the lottery sometimes correlates to the background of a community, with those making high incomes in affluent communities spending less on the lottery. But it is really a middle-class game.
"It (spending) also is based on the commercial setup in the community," Cahill said. Large communities tend to have more sales agents. There are 7,500 lottery agents in the state, and large cities like Peabody have more sales locations (55) than Swampscott (six).
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673 or email@example.com.