Iowa lottery sales fall 7 percent; officials say cold weather, fewer massive jackpots to blame

Last year's Iowa Lottery sales fell 7.4 percent from July 1, 2013 to June 30, a drop officials attributed Tuesday to a rough winter that altered customers' buying habits and fewer extremely high jackpots that drive up sales.

The results show overall lottery sales declined to $314 million from $339.3 million the year before, which was the highest total in the lottery's 28 years. Scratch-off tickets, the biggest income generator, fell 6.7 percent to nearly $189 million.

Powerball sales fell nearly 25 percent to $61.2 million from $81.4 million the year before, a drop lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer attributed to the fact that the game reached jackpots above $300 million just three times during the year. It had climbed above that threshold four times in fiscal 2013, including the game's largest jackpot of $590.5 million in May 2013.

"In a particular year when a jackpot in a game climbs high repeatedly, then obviously sales will follow the jackpot up and it's going to be a very strong year for that game," she said. "In this particular year the Powerball jackpot didn't get to those really high levels as many times as it had the year before ... and you can never predict these things."

Lottery CEO Terry Rich attributed some of the sales decline to a harsh winter with repeated blizzards and frigid temperatures keeping potential buyers at home. When people aren't in their normal routines, they don't make their usual purchases, including lottery tickets, he said in a statement.

The Mega Millions lottery game sales climbed nearly 64 percent to $21.8 million.

Neubauer said the game's jackpot surpassed the $100 million mark four times — reaching $636 million in December 2013 and $400 million on March 18. In fiscal 2013, Mega Millions surpassed $100 million twice and never topped $190 million.

A Powerball ticket costs $2 while Mega Millions is $1 for a play.

Sales also fell for pull-tab tickets, Hot Lotto and Iowa's $100,000 Cash Game but rose slightly for the Pick 3 and Pick 4 games.

The lottery paid out $186.9 million in prizes and gave nearly $74 million to the state, down from $85 million in fiscal 2013. Most of the money goes to the state general fund, which covers budgeted expenses including education. Another $1.8 million was raised for the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund.

Iowa businesses received $20.1 million in commissions from the lottery for selling its products during the year. The state's leading lottery retailers are two Hy-Vee grocery stores in Cedar Rapids that sold over $900,000 in tickets at each store. A Kum & Go convenience store in Fort Dodge is third with more than $707,000 in sales, while Hy-Vee stores in Des Moines and Waterloo rounded out the top 5.