BOSTON (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – The Massachusetts Lottery counted $70.7 million in net profit in March, up $9.5 million from last March despite $4.4 million less in total sales for the month, the Lottery director said Tuesday.

Executive Director Michael Sweeney presented the Lottery Commission with its March sales update and reported $395 million in sales last month, down from almost $399.5 in March 2016. The Lottery paid 71.6% of its sales back out as prize winnings in March, down from 73% last March and unchanged from February.

As the percentage of Lottery revenue paid out as prizes drops, the Lottery’s profit margins are bolstered. Lottery officials say they do not control the payout percentage apart from when it establishes overall odds for games.

Keno “really helped this month,” Sweeney said, as the monitor game accounted for $2.6 million more in sales this year than last year. Sales of scratch tickets, which account for about 70% of the Lottery’s total sales, were down $8.4 million, or 3%, over last March.

In addition to Keno, other games that saw sales increases in March included Mega Millions (up $1.1 million), Megabucks Doubler (up about $176,000), Powerball (up $48,000) and Lucky for Life (up $8,000). The Numbers Game and Mass Cash joined scratch tickets in the red last month.

Through the first nine months of the fiscal year, Lottery sales overall are down $108.2 million or 2.7%, Sweeney said.