As recession mounts, raffle fever hits state

Five major drawings slated to be held in Alaska in coming year

Posted: Monday, February 09, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Raffle madness is coming to Alaska.

At least five major raffles could take place in the state in the coming year, with jackpots ranging from $50,000 to $500,000.

The raffle fever was sparked after a January drawing organized by Lucky Times Pull Tabs owner Abe Spicola in Anchorage sold more than 100,000 tickets across the state. Each ticket cost $5.

Jack Powers, owner of Tudor Road Bingo in Anchorage, has begun selling tickets for a drawing to be held next month.

Powers said he sold 200 tickets a day last week for his March 31 drawing. Two winners will receive $50,000 each, with a fraction of the ticket sales going to the nonprofit Fur Rendezvous festival, he said.

Powers also is thinking of splitting a quarter-million-dollar jackpot among multiple winners in July.

"Historically, when the economy goes down, people have less money, they're going to spend a couple dollars and chase that pot of gold," he said.

Alaska has no state lottery. But state laws allows these drawings - raffles, technically - as long a portion of the money goes to charity.

Spicola, a former gaming investigator, raised more than $600,000 by selling 121,000 tickets. The nonprofit at the receiving end is Standing Together Against Rape.

Spicola and STAR plan to make the lottery an annual event.

The jackpot for the raffle was $500,000. Under state law, nonprofits must receive at least 10 percent of the money left after the payout.

Spicola's check to STAR was for $10,000 which, based on the number of tickets reported sold, would be just below the 10 percent threshold.

Spicola said STAR will get more - up to another $2,000 - as the organizers finish up their paper work.

He said as many as 500,000 tickets will go on sale for the next STAR raffle as early as this month. The drawing is planned for just after midnight on New Year's Eve.

Spicola also hopes to hold a $250,000 lottery in July. For that one, he wants to team up with a nonprofit veterans group.

The city of Fairbanks also is mulling over the idea of a raffle.

Local leaders in a committee meeting talked about holding a lottery back in 2006, when voters slashed property taxes, said City Councilwoman Vivian Stiver. The idea never got off the ground, but after watching the STAR raffle take root, Stiver is looking to see if the city can do the same thing.

"Ideally I would think of something like the Powerball, where you could buy tickets at several locations, maybe convenience stores, whoever would like to handle them," she said.

The city council would have to approve a formal proposal for the idea and Stiver is still doing her research, she said. She's trying to determine if the city could sell the tickets outside of Fairbanks, for example.

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