Sales Plummet for Lottery Game That Helps Veterans

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AUSTIN, Texas -- A $2 scratch-off game in Texas created to help fill funding shortfalls for veterans services is plummeting in popularity, even as the state lottery posts record sales overall.

The San Antonio Express-News reported Monday that since Veterans Cash launched in 2009, nearly $20.8 million in ticket sales has helped veterans with everything from housing to counseling.

But the newspaper reports revenue from Veterans Cash sales in fiscal year 2012 was $4.7 million, down nearly 42 percent from the year before. Officials call the drop typical for new games, and the Lottery Commission projects sales will remain at a lower level.

Veterans Cash is the state lottery's only ticket with proceeds going to something other than education. Revenues from the game go to a fund overseen by the Texas Veterans Commission, which is likely to turn down more applications for funding because of less money available.

Last year, the commission had 190 applications and funded 37.

"People are patriotic. We need to make sure they know about this ticket," said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who heads the Senate Veterans Affairs and Military Installations Committee. "Maybe we do a little more advertising."

Texas isn't the only state that has faced falling revenues for some specialty-game tickets. In Illinois, lottery officials are re-tooling the approach to games, including one for veterans that has seen declining revenues over the years.

Michael Jones, Illinois' lottery superintendent, said the state changed advertising agencies and is brainstorming ideas such as offering something other than money as prizes for the veterans' game. One included giving winners a chance to pull the lanyard on a howitzer, a short cannon.

"There's a lot you can do with these special-interest games if you think about them differently," Jones said.

The lottery provides nine out of every 10 dollars for the state Fund for Veterans' Assistance. The fund also gets money from an optional contribution tied to motor vehicle registrations.