By Rudolph Bush
The Lotto Report, an independent publication calling itself the lotto player's advocate, argues the commission's proposal to add four numbers to Lotto Texas will hurt retailers and players.
"It's only a way to rob the people, and the people are having a cow," Lotto Report Publisher Dawn Nettles said of the proposal.
For now, the numbers 1 to 50 are used to determine the lottery's largest jackpot.
If the commission's plan goes through, the numbers would increase to 1 to 54.
The new formula would change a player's chances to win the prize from 1 in 15.8 million to 1 in 25.8 million.
Commission officials believe the longer shot would create a bigger jackpot, drawing more players to a game that slumped in sales this year by as much as 32 percent locally.
In an effort to add weight to its concerns for the game, the Lotto Report claims at least one major retailer is ready to quit selling tickets, if the proposal passes.
Nettles refused to name that retailer or any of three other minor retailers she says will stop selling tickets.
The commission's response to Nettles' claim was subdued.
Spokesman Keith Elkins said Nettles' information about retailers' concerns is not factual.
"We welcome Ms. Nettles' input. However, it seems presumptuous that she would speak on behalf of state lottery retailers and strange that she would make unsubstantiated claims," Elkins said in a prepared statement.
"The response we have received regarding the proposal from lottery retailers throughout has been positive support," the statement said.
Retailers will have a chance to lend their voice to the dispute tonight when the commission hears public comment at their Austin headquarters.
The issue will be revisited April 19 when it appears again on the commission's agenda.
Elkins said no action will be taken on the item, however, until the end of April when a 30-day public comment period ends.
By George Kuempel / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN - A lottery Web site operator said Wednesday she has gotten a "gentlemen's agreement" from some retailers to stop selling tickets in protest if the state goes ahead with a proposal to lower the chances of winning the lotto jackpot.
Dawn Nettles of Garland, who also publishes The Lotto Report, said her readers are prepared to join in the boycott by not playing the game. She declined to identify any of the retailers involved but said Wednesday that she has met with one big corporate retailer, two mid-sized ones and a number of independent store owners to plan the boycott if the three-member lottery commission approves the changes.
The commission is to hold a public hearing on the proposal on Wednesday in Austin.
"The Texas Lottery cannot survive without players and retailers. We are the backbone," she said.
Lottery spokesman Keith Elkins called Ms. Nettles' comments "misguided and in large part factually incorrect." The response the agency has received from retailers has been "positive and supportive," he said.
The lottery has received 200 letters and 365 e-mails regarding the change, but has not broken them down by pros and cons, according to spokeswoman Leticia Vasquez.
In an effort to revive sales, the lottery wants to make lotto jackpots harder to win by adding four numbers to the 50 now used in the twice-weekly drawings.
Fewer winners, they say, will produce bigger jackpots which, in turn, will entice more Texans to buy tickets.
Players are unhappy, however, because their chances of winning the jackpot will be reduced from one in 15.9 million to one in 25.8 million, Ms. Nettles said.
The three-member commission backed off a similar proposal last year because of an outpouring of player protests - largely orchestrated by Ms. Nettles.
Ms. Nettles said retailers have several against the lottery, including their the amount of their take from ticket sales. They get 5 cents for every $1 ticket sold.
She said the $8.3 million in additional commissions the lottery is offering as part of the game change is too small - averaging only about $500 a year per retailer.
Ms. Nettles said many retailers already are silently protesting by relocating lottery signs and play slips to the backs of their stores.
"Retailers have been sending lottery officials messages for a long time, but no one seems to hear them," she said.
She said she has 2,000 subscribers to her twice-monthly newsletter and sells about the same number in stores in the Dallas area.
By John Moritz
AUSTIN -- The publisher of a lottery tipsheet said yesterday she is asking retailers statewide to stop selling Lotto Texas tickets if the Texas Lottery Commission adds four numbers to the 50-number game.
"The Texas lottery cannot survive without players and retailers," said Dawn Nettles of Garland, who publishes the `Lotto Report,' which she bills as a "racing form" for Lotto Texas players. "We are the backbone."
Last month, the three- member Lottery Commission tentatively approved increasing to 54 the numbers in the twice- weekly drawings. The move is designed to make it harder for players to win and thereby drive up jackpots, which start at $4 million.
Typically, when jackpots reach the tens of millions of dollars, player interest is piqued and ticket sales soar. In recent years, the once- successful lottery games have suffered from slumping sales, which mean fewer dollars going into the state treasury.
Nettles declined to disclose which retailers would participate in her protest. Lottery spokesman Keith Elkins called Nettles' effort misguided and said retailers are invited to give commissioners their views at a meeting today in Austin.
A spokeswoman for Dallas- based Southland Corp., which operates 7-Eleven stores, was unfamiliar with Nettles' call for a lotto boycott by retailers.
"We have not heard anything about it," said Dana Manley, a marketing communications manager for Southland Corp. in Dallas
She said Southland owns all 200-plus 7-Eleven store in North Texas. Since none is a franchise, Manley said any change in the stores' lotto policy would be done at the corporate level.
If the four numbers are added to lotto, the odds of winning the jackpot would be 1 in 25.8 million, compared with 1 in 15.8 million in the current game, according to lottery officials. Lotto sales statewide for the first six months of fiscal 2000 are down about 28 percent compared with the same period in fiscal 1999. Sales in Fort Worth are down 31 percent for the same period, according to Lottery Commission figures.
Staff writer Paul Bourgeois contributed to this report.
John Moritz, (512) 476-4294
AUSTIN The Texas Lottery Commission may be experiencing deja vu.
Hundreds of letters and e-mails have been sent to the commission by players upset by a proposal to add four numbers to the Lotto Texas game to make it tougher to win the top prize.
Lottery commissioners received similar responses when they considered changes in lotto last year and ended up scrapping the plan in October.
The new proposal would lengthen the odds of winning a jackpot from about one in 16 million to almost one in 26 million but would increase the amounts of lower-tier prizes.
Faced with a continuing slump in lotto ticket sales, the commission is trying to increase player interest in the game by generating bigger jackpots. The agency estimates that the average jackpot would increase from $9 million to $19 million.
But a majority of the players who have responded to the proposal don't want the change.
An e-mail from Sherri Wheeler of the Lubbock area indicates that the problem isn't the size of the prizes but the fact that people aren't winning.
"If the odds are increased, as reported, I will put my money somewhere where I know I can win in savings," Wheeler wrote.
Kim Kipling, general counsel for the Lottery Commission, isn't surprised by the new round of correspondence opposing the proposed changes.
"It never surprise me that you hear more from people who don't want things to change ... than from people who do," Kipling said.
Some players have written in support of the new proposal.
"Bravo commissioners for having the courage to begin what should have been done in October 1999," Harry L. Hill of Houston said in a letter.
Kipling said the earliest the commission can vote on the proposal is May 1.
By JOHN W. GONZALEZ
AUSTIN -- Some lottery retailers are so angry about a proposed change to Lotto rules that they're threatening to halt ticket sales next week, an opponent of the proposal said Wednesday.
At issue is the Texas Lottery Commission's tentative plan to use 54 balls in the twice-weekly drawings rather than 50 balls. The change will begin in June and is designed to make jackpots bigger by increasing the odds against winning the top prize to 25.8 million to 1. The odds against winning a jackpot with 50 balls are 15.8 million to 1.
Dawn Nettles of Garland publishes the Lotto Report and is a vocal opponent of the proposed change. Nettles said some retailers "will attempt to halt all lottery sales if the proposed change to add four balls to Lotto Texas is approved.
"They will simply shut Lotto machines down until amicable terms can be reached between the retailers and the commission," she predicted.
Irate retailers will decide what to do next Wednesday when a final public hearing is slated on the proposed change.
Nettles said the retailers' main concern is that their 5 percent commission "has never covered their costs, and profits are not worthy of the work involved in selling lottery products."
The complaints don't stop there, she said. Other retailers object to policies regarding liability for stolen tickets, insurance and refunds, Nettles said.
"Retailers are fed up with bureaucracy," she said.
Lottery commission spokesman Keith Elkins said Nettles' comments are welcome but misguided.
"It seems presumptuous that she would speak on behalf of retailers, and strange that she would make unsubstantiated claims," Elkins said. Many of the state's 17,000 lottery retailers have urged the commission to go through with the change, he said.
"The lottery commission is interested in hearing directly from our retailers and players regarding this proposal," he said.
By CONNIE MABIN Associated Press Writer
AUSTIN (AP) - Most Texas lottery retailers favor proposed changes that would give Lotto Texas bigger jackpots but make it harder to win, the president of a retailers association said Thursday.
``I think the reason they're in favor of it is because they want to do anything they can to rejuvenate lottery sales. Sales have been down for so long,'' said Rick Johnson, president of the Texas Lottery Retailers Association and Texas Food Industry Association. ``They want to get it going again.'' (Or get it out of their stores!)
Johnson told lottery commissioners at a meeting Thursday that his organization surveyed about 4,000 retailers - members and nonmembers - about the commission's proposed changes that would increase the numbers in the twice-weekly game by four to 1 to 54. (Let me see the surveys ... What were the retailers asked? Who paid for this survey? Why didn't you tell the Commissioners what your retailers have asked you to do to help them in the past year or so? Congratulations, to get back 3973 out of 4000 surveys is quite an accomplishment .... In fact, it's unbelievable!)
Of the 3,973 surveys returned, Johnson said 88 percent were in favor of the proposed changes. Only 12 percent were opposed. (Who buys the tickets ... the players or the retailers? Also, why not ask at the store level what the customers have to say about adding 4 balls. Store managers tell me they continously tell their G Tech Reps but the Reps always come back with, "No one cares what we say!")
Records sales racked up when the game was new in 1992 have steadily dropped off over the years, hitting all-time lows in recent months.
Lotto Texas sales of $11.4 million for the first 26 weeks of the fiscal year are down 28.5 percent over the same period a year ago, when sales were $15.4 million.
Any change that could increase sales is welcomed by most retailers, Johnson said.
``Now it (Lotto Texas) has just lost its excitement,'' Johnson said.
The survey results contradict a Wednesday report released by a Dallas watchdog organization that said some retailers were so against the proposed changes they were threatening to stop selling tickets altogether if the changes are approved.
``The Texas Lottery has left me no choice but to find a way to stop them from adding those four balls which ultimately makes it tougher for players to win the game,'' said Dawn Nettles, publisher of The Lotto Report, an independent publication that bills itself the lotto player's advocate.
The proposed changes, which would decrease a player's chance to win the jackpot from 1 in 15.8 million to 1 in 25.8 million, ``is only a way to rob the people and the people are having a cow,'' Nettles told the San Antonio Express-News.
Johnson disagreed, saying most retailers think bigger jackpots will ultimately attract more players regardless of the increased odds. (Then how come this very plan failed in California and New York?)
That theory is backed up by lottery statistics that show about 75 percent of buyers only play when jackpots are larger than $15 million.
The commission's proposed changes would increase the average jackpot from $9 million to $19 million in a year. It also would increase Lotto sales by $166 million annually.
Lottery commissioners will again discuss the proposal April 19, but will not take action on it until a 30-day public comment period expires at the end of April.
The Proposed Changes
The Lotto Report