Big jackpots give Lotto record profit

By Beck Vass

The Lotteries Commission's record profit could help offset Government funding cuts which have hit many community groups and organisations. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
The Lotteries Commission's record profit could help offset Government funding cuts which have hit many community groups and organisations. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

Thousands of community groups will benefit from the New Zealand Lotteries Commission's record profit of $189 million.

The profit - $32.4 million more than last year - was presented to Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy last night, and will go to the Lotteries Grants Board for distribution.

The extra profit has been attributed to two major prize draws which prompted optimistic punters to buy tickets in record numbers.

Those draws were a Powerball jackpot in October last year, in which five people shared a $25 million jackpot and the Big Wednesday draw in June this year, in which a Masterton family syndicate won $36 million.

The Big Wednesday draw alone produced $14 million more profit than expected because it occurred at the end of the financial year, throwing out the Lotteries Commission estimates.

Members of the Masterton family last night attended a celebration which was held at the Chamber of Commerce in Wellington.

Some big winners of the profits have already been earmarked.

Sport and Recreation New Zealand, Creative NZ and the Film Commission - the three main beneficiaries of the Lottery Grants Board funds - learned last night they would receive more money than expected.

But a spokesman for Mr Guy said last night hundreds more community groups would also be in line for money.

Every year, hundreds of community groups who meet the grants criteria apply for money but are declined.

Mr Guy said Lottery grants provided vital backing for social, community, arts, heritage, sports, recreation, and health research activities which had a positive effect on New Zealand communities.

"A lottery grant can be the difference between an organisation wanting to make something happen in its community and being able to make it happen. It means that ordinary New Zealanders can do amazing things for their communities."

NZ Lotteries spokeswoman Karen Jones said having two big jackpots in one year was extremely unusual.

NZ Lotteries chief executive Todd McLeay said having the two major jackpot draws in one financial year was an unusual event unlikely to be repeated in the next decade.

"It is not surprising that these jackpot runs therefore captured the imagination of a nation and led to huge queues in many Lotto shops."

Sales for last financial year were $907.7 million - 16.7 per cent more than the year before.

The $189.3 million net profit was 24.1 per cent above budget, and 20.7 per cent more than the 2007-2008 figure.

Mr McLeay said that when the two big jackpot runs were taken out of the equation, Lotto's week-to-week sales still held up well in the current financial climate.

Last year, almost 5500 community groups and individuals received lottery money.

This year's profit is likely to help offset Government funding cuts which have hit many community groups and organisations.

The Combined Beneficiaries Union in Auckland had $66,000 in Government funding cancelled.

But it also receives lottery grants, and can now expect to benefit from the profit jump.

- NZ Herald

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