OLYMPIA -- Veterans will receive some money from a state raffle held in their honor, but much less than was predicted before extra advertising ate into the raffle's profits.
Lawmakers created the annual game last year and directed proceeds to the Veterans Innovations Program, which hands out small cash grants to help veterans returning home with rent, gas, school and other expenses.
The program otherwise received no new money in the current state budget.
Washington's Lottery expected to raise at least $430,000 for the grants -- even more under some early estimates -- if its $10 tickets sold out. But early ticket sales were lackluster, so the Lottery ramped up advertising. That may have helped sell about 98 percent of tickets and drive nearly $3 million in sales, but it also left just $240,000 for the veterans program, the Lottery now estimates.
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"We know there is a great base for a veterans raffle," said Sen. Steve Conway, a Tacoma Democrat who pushed to create the game. He was referring to Washington's former service members, including more than 60,000 who served in Iraq or Afghanistan alone.
"I feel that this will grow," Conway said. "That's my sense of it, that we didn't meet our expectation but certainly we have a good foundation to build on."
Players who bought the 292,841 tickets for the "Hometown Heroes" raffle won $1.41 million in prizes in a Veterans Day drawing. But promoting the game took about $1 million in advertising, the Lottery says.
Officials are looking at what to do differently this year. Lawmakers are considering giving more leeway in the schedule -- in part because the Lottery expects advertising to be more expensive this fall with the presidential campaign in full swing.
Last year, tickets went on sale Sept. 5 for the Nov. 11 drawing. A shorter time frame might give people more urgency to play, said Lottery spokesman Arlen Harris.
Harris said the Lottery also is eyeing a name change. The "Hometown Heroes" designation may have been confusing.
"Next year, we're going to call it the veterans raffle," he said.
Legislative auditors have questioned whether good causes drive lottery sales. Earlier this month, a draft report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee concluded that a small increase in ticket sales last year could not be attributed to lawmakers' decision in 2010 to spend the biggest chunk of lottery proceeds on college scholarships and grants.
Officials at the state Department of Veterans Affairs are taking a glass-half-full approach. At a Friday photo opportunity, the two agencies celebrated the first installment of proceeds coming in with the presentation of an oversized check.
"Certainly more would be better, but this is a wonderful infusion into this program," said Heidi Audette, a Veterans Affairs spokeswoman.
The veterans program spent just $160,000 last year, Audette said, using money provided by the Legislature in previous years.