April 24, 2003 – Encouraged by the national organization running the Powerball game, Austin Andrews, executive director of the Virgin Islands Lottery, provided detailed gross sales figures on Powerball to the Source on Wednesday.
Powerball gambling became available in the territory last Nov. 16.
Ticket sales through April 19, the most recent date for which figures are available, total $2,013,870, Andrews said. He gave the monthly breakdowns as:
November — $138,606
December — $579,636
January — $422,091
February — $339,002
March — $342,402
April 1-19 — $192,133
These are gross sales figures. From this, total substantial but unspecified amounts go to the Multi-State Lottery Association, commonly called MUSL, which operates Powerball and pays the prizes; to Caribbean Lottery Services, which is contracted to run the game in the Virgin Islands; and to the V.I. Lottery, for its internal operations. What's left after that goes to the V.I. government coffers.
Asked if any Powerball revenues had reached the V.I. Treasury, Andrews said that a few days ago the V.I. Lottery turned $100,000 over to the Finance commissioner. These funds, he said, were to be forwarded to a special fund to assist the handicapped.
Andrews' telephone call to the Source with this information came after the newspaper e-mailed Charles Strutt, MUSL executive director, to pass along the information reported by the Source that Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull had told the Senate Finance Committee that she had received no revenues from the V.I. Lottery from either Caribbean Lottery Services or the Powerball game. (See "Lottery audit to begin; more answers sought".)
Strutt e-mailed the Source in reply that the V.I. Lottery executive director would call with sales information, and he did so.
An analysis of the month-by-month Powerball sales figures indicates that after a strong showing in December and January, the sales have leveled off at about $10,000 per day. That would work out to an annual total of $3.5 million to $4 million in gross sales.
By way of comparison, $19.3 million in gross street sales of traditional lottery tickets was reported by the V.I. Lottery when it last disclosed its finances, in fiscal year 1999.
When Powerball started last fall, there was one projection that sales would reach $3.6 million a year and another that they would hit $5.5 million. Both figures appear to be reasonably in line with what can be expected in this first year, given the sales figures to date.
However, it is not known what percentage of sales is to V.I. residents and what portion is to visitors, most of whom would probably be cruise ship passengers. If a significant portion is to tourists, the revenue figures could drop considerably during the off season. Whether that is a factor should become evident in the coming summer months.
In any event, the gross sales data, while significant, are much less important to the territorial treasury than the net income information. That data may become available only after the legislative audit is completed.
In recent years, the net flow of funds has been from the treasury to the V.I. Lottery, with the Lottery said to be owing the General Fund about $4 million. As mainland industry sources keep saying, nowhere else under the U.S. flag has a lottery ever been known to operate at a loss.
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