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Ticket sales slump drops lottery revenue 6 percent

The New Mexico Lottery generated $40.9 million in the most recent budget year for a popular college scholarship program but the revenue is down about 6 percent because of a slump in ticket sales.

The revenue dip won’t affect scholarship awards in the fall semester for students at New Mexico’s public colleges and universities, Enrique Knell, a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez said Wednesday.

The Higher Education Department estimates the lottery-financed scholarship program has enough money to cover average tuition costs this fall for eligible students.

About 14,800 students are expected to receive scholarships in the fall semester, according to the department.

The lottery produced a record-setting $43.7 million for scholarships in 2013.

State law requires at least 30 percent of lottery proceeds go to the scholarship program.

Lottery sales have declined seven out of the last 10 years.

Net lottery ticket sales were $136 million in the 2014 fiscal year, which ended June 30. That compares with $141.8 million in 2013.

Lottery officials attributed the decline to smaller Powerball jackpots, which didn’t drive ticket sales as high as a year earlier.

Changes to the scholarship program were enacted earlier this year to shore up its finances because tuition increases and demand for the financial assistance had grown faster than lottery proceeds. Lawmakers also earmarked a portion of liquor tax money to keep the program solvent temporarily.

The scholarships previously covered 100 percent of tuition, but now students will receive the average tuition for the type of college they’re attending or full tuition at their school if it’s lower than the average.

If there’s not enough money in the program for the full amount, the state must lower scholarships to less than 100 percent of the tuition averages.