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N.D. Lottery marks 10 years with new ticket scanners to shorten waits

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem demonstrates how to use one of the North Dakota Lottery's new ticket scanners during an event marking the lottery's 10th anniversary on Monday, March 24, 2014, in Bismarck. Photo by Mike Nowatzki / Forum News Service

BISMARCK – When North Dakotans win the lottery, do they spend the money to soup up their tractors with painted-on flames and gold grills? Hire a butler to serve them cheeseburgers? Send their in-laws away on a year-round trip?

Those are just three of the scenarios playfully posed in a new North Dakota Lottery marketing campaign unveiled Monday as officials marked the lottery’s 10th anniversary.

But what may be of more interest to lottery players – and those who have to suffer in line behind them at gas stations and grocery stores – are the new machines that will make it easier for gamblers to check whether their ticket is a winner.

“The one thing that we’ve heard from the retailers in North Dakota and from the customers, whether they buy Powerball tickets or lottery tickets or not … is, ‘We don’t like having to wait in line behind people who are trying to turn in their tickets and determine if they’ve won,’ ” said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, whose office oversees the state lottery.

Ryan Koppy, the lottery’s sales and marketing manager, said the 425 self-service ticket checkers that were distributed to retailers across the state in February and March will make it easy for players with multiple tickets to scan them electronically away from the counter.

“It makes it a lot easier to go up to the front and then hand in just the winners that they have. It makes it a lot less congestion at the counter,” he said.

Gamblers have won more than $79 million in prizes through the North Dakota Lottery since the first Powerball ticket was sold March 25, 2004. Ticket sales have totaled $215 million.

North Dakota voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2002 enabling the state to participate in multistate lottery games, and the state Legislature approved the state lottery in 2003.

The lottery currently offers five games, though Director Randy Miller said he hopes to roll out a new game in the near future.

About 52 cents of every lottery dollar goes to prizes. Through February, winnings amounted to $33.5 million from Powerball, $4.3 million from Mega Millions, $9.3 million from Hot Lotto, $13.3 million from Wild Card 2 and $18.6 million from the 2by2 game.

The highest jackpot to date was a $1.6 million Wild Card 2 winner. Thirty people have matched all five Powerball or Mega Millions numbers to win between $200,000 and $1 million, Stenehjem said.

“We have not yet had a Powerball jackpot, but that is something that I think will come to some lucky winner here in North Dakota,” he said.

The state’s general fund also has cashed in, receiving more than $56 million from the lottery, or about 23 cents of every dollar. In addition, the lottery has transferred $2.5 million to a fund for narcotics task forces across the state and $2 million to a state fund for compulsive gambling prevention and treatment.

Miller said the state’s 2-1-1 hotline for people struggling with gambling addiction receives about 30 calls per month. Stenehjem said gambling addicts generally aren’t buying Powerball tickets because they don’t provide instant gratification.

Along with the new marketing campaign – based on the theme, “When you win, what you do is up to you” – officials also highlighted the lottery’s redesigned logo, faster terminals for retailers and new LCD monitors that automatically update players with promotions and jackpot amounts.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.