Players aren’t only winners in New Mexico Lottery

CNJ illustration: Tony Bullucks and Liliana Castillo Curry and Roosevelt County residents won more than $3.4 million by playing the lottery in fiscal year 2009, according to the New Mexico Lottery.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

For a handful of area residents, scratching, picking and rubbing has turned out to be lucrative.

Curry and Roosevelt County residents won more than $3.4 million by playing the lottery in fiscal year 2009, according to the New Mexico Lottery.

The numbers show about $6.3 million spent playing to win in the two counties. And for every $2 spent on the lottery, approximately $1 was paid out in winnings.

But aside from winnings, money returns to the community through education scholarships and commissions to retailers, according to the New Mexico Lottery.

Since 1996, 2,250 high school graduates in both counties have received $6.7 million in scholarship money to attend college, lottery data shows.

And nearly 750 students have received $11 million in Legislative Lottery Scholarships to attend Eastern New Mexico University.

“There was an abundance of good luck in New Mexico last year,” Lottery CEO Tom Romero said in a press release.

“Players won great prizes while helping thousands of young people pursue their dreams of a college education.”

All lottery profits are returned to the state to fund Legislative Lottery Scholarships, a tuition-assistance program for eligible New Mexico residents attending the state’s public colleges and universities, the release said.

In fiscal year 2009, lottery profits for the state totaled $40.8 million on ticket sales of $147.1 million, the release said.

In addition to education money in the last fiscal year, 49 retailers in Curry and Roosevelt counties made more than $400,000 in commissions for selling tickets, according to the lottery.

But Clovis’ Kymburly Odell, whose husband Travis scratched and won $250,000, is still skeptical.

Odell said she and her husband have concerns about the lottery and he only bought the ticket on impulse.

Once they realized he had won, they faced a moral dilemma about what to do with the money, she said.

After thinking it through, consulting spiritual leaders and talking to each other, they decided it was indeed a blessing, and one they would share.

Odell said they paid off their home — the last debt they had as they worked toward being debt-free — and gave the rest to local organizations.

“We helped out several people that we knew needed help,” she said.

“We helped out some of the local ministries (and) the Life Choice Pregnancy Center at Matt 25 (in particular). It’s a wonderful feeling.”

Odell said what made winning difficult was the irony. They don’t believe in gambling as a practice and the decision to buy the ticket was a fluke.

“It’s a tough thing because it’s, (well) we’re against people thinking that they can get something for nothing,” she said.

“We’re just against people playing it irresponsibly… going out and getting a job and being responsible with your money is what’s going to help you.”

Thankful for what they see as a blessing and an opportunity to help others, Odell said the money is gone, they are secure in their home and have no intention to buy any more lottery tickets.