AUSTIN (AP) – A lower percentage of people are playing Texas Lottery games, but sales are steady — a shift that the Lottery Commission blames on the struggling economy.

Fiscal 2010 saw a decline from 41.7 percent of Texas residents taking their chances with lottery games, to 33.8 percent playing, according to a Texas Lottery Commission survey released this week.

That’s the second-largest year-to-year decrease since the Texas Lottery started in 1993. The rate of participation fell 9 percent between 2003 and 2004.

Nevertheless, total lottery sales in fiscal year 2010 were $3.74 billion, about the same as each of the past four years. The games also earned about $1 billion for Texas public schools last year, approximately the same as in recent years.

Lottery Commissioner J. Winston Krause attributed the latest numbers to the poor economy.

“People have the good judgment to play when they can and not when they shouldn’t,” said Krause.

The annual study looked at who plays Lotto, Pick 3, instant scratch-off tickets and other state-sponsored games of chance. Every geographic region of the state saw a decline in the percentage of people playing, as did almost every game managed by the commission, the Austin American-Statesman reported Tuesday.

Overall, the percentage of Texans who reported playing the lottery has fallen by more than half since 1995, when more than 70 percent of Texans played the games that raise money for the state’s public schools.

The annual survey was done by the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy.

The commission on Dec. 14 announced a new nine-year contract with lottery operator GTECH Corp., with the company earning about $83 million annually.

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