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State lottery may make $961m profit this year, officials say

The state lottery is on pace to net nearly $1 billion this year, after state officials doubled the agency's advertising budget from the year before.

In 2003, its best year ever, the Massachusetts State Lottery recorded $912 million in profits, director Joseph Sullivan told the Boston Herald.

Through the first quarter of fiscal 2004, which ended Oct. 2, the lottery was ahead of that pace by 5.4 percent. If that trend continues, the agency would net $961 million this year. That money is funneled back to cities and towns as local aid.

The Legislature and Governor Mitt Romney approved a plan to double the agency's advertising budget, from $5 million in 2003 to $10 million this year, and the move appears to be paying off, Sullivan said. The campaign included television ads encouraging people to buy Mega Millions tickets, which are sold in a dozen states, including Massachusetts.

In September, the lottery also retired its 17-year-old Mass Millions game because of slumping sales and replaced it with a new game, CASH WinFall. ''Sales on that game have been very strong," Sullivan said.

The Herald reported yesterday that Salisbury leads Massachusetts communities in per-capita lottery ticket sales, with $3,643.86 through Nov. 2.

Much of that can be attributed to New Hampshire residents coming across the state line to buy tickets in the border town, said Denise Houde, owner of Denise's, a general store in Salisbury.

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