Jackie Smith

WinFall lottery loses $730,000

Losses in the Peace Arch Hospital and Community Health Foundation's WinFall Lottery were less than predicted.

The WinFall Lottery wound up losing money this year – but not as much as was earlier feared.

That’s the message from Peace Arch Hospital and Community Health Foundation executive director Jackie Smith, who said it now appears the lottery lost some $730,000, much less than predicted when the foundation went public with an appeal for ticket buyers.

“It’s not good, but it could have been a lot worse,” she said.

In a press conference one week before the Oct. 19 draw day, Smith revealed ticket sales were running at only 35 per cent, though she didn’t specify expected loss.

“At that point, we were looking at (a loss of) $2 million,” she said Friday.

Smith didn’t hesitate to praise ticket buyers, who rallied around the lottery following the announcement, for helping avert disaster.

“Our community, and our ticket buyers… showed yet again their willingness and commitment to investing in the hospital,” she said. “We doubled our tickets in the last week of sales – that’s unheard of.”

She said social networking was a huge factor in getting word out.

Smith said she wants to assure foundation donors their contributions will not be used to make up $730,000 loss.

“Our foundation is very fortunate that it can operate from ancillary revenues, such as the hospital parking lots.”

As a consequence, the loss will be much the same as a revenue shortfall on the balance sheet, she said.

“It will not impact our ability to make contributions to medical equipment, and donor dollars will (continue to) go to the areas specified,” Smith said.

“This is a time of year when people are most generous,” she noted. “They could be chasing a Dec. 31 tax deadline for contributions, or they could just be wanting to give back to the community.”

Smith said the lottery had been “an incredibly successful event” for the past 16 years, clearing $25 million in that time – well over $1 million per year.

A number of causes appear to have contributed to the decline in sales for the lottery this year, she said, with no single one the frontrunner – although the economy is undeniably a major factor.

It’s clear the foundation is not the only organization that found lotteries a less-than-solid bet in 2011 – the Royal Columbian Hospital lottery, for example, lost some $3 million earlier this year.

“The market is changing,” Smith said. “There’s more competition, the competition is different and the prizes are different.”

She said a task force has been struck from the foundation board to investigate the most profitable lottery models both nationally and internationally.

Smith said that while there may be another lottery in 2012 – citing its usefulness in raising awareness as well as funds – she doubted it would return in “exactly the same iteration.”

She acknowledged the foundation is only beginning to dig into the data gathered on buyers, in a quest to tailor a lottery to residents’ evolving needs.

‘We’re looking at who bought tickets, where they came from, what their motivation was,” she said.

“That could help tell us what the lottery looks like in future.”

 

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