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State lottery officials have sliced $1.5 million off today's $6 million jackpot because of slow ticket sales in recent weeks, which they blame on the poor economy and holiday shopping.

As a result, they reduced the normal jackpot prize to $4.5 million, said Anne McCartin Doyle, Lottery Division spokeswoman.

"I think (the lower ticket sales) are the result of a combination of things," she said.

"I think it's the interest rate, the holiday season, the economy in general," she added. The reduction is not designed to save money, according to officials, who are trying to close a potential $1 billion deficit in the state treasury this year.

The state is protected from financial loss because of a reserve fund established from ticket sales in previous games, Mrs. McCartin Doyle said.

If more tickets are sold than projected and a larger jackpot is possible, the state will pay the bigger prize, she said.

"Certainly, the Lottery (Division) doesn't want to set a jackpot amount that doesn't reflect what the sales are going to be," she said, adding that sales figures and this week's projection were not immediately available.

The lower jackpot caught the attention of a Lotto ticket seller in Buffalo.

"I thought it was pretty weird to have that low of a jackpot," said John Walker of Parkview Family Discount Center, 2189 Seneca St.

Like Lottery Division officials, Walker could not recall another instance when the Lotto prize did not double after no one won the initial $3 million jackpot Wednesday.

Walker said many Lotto customers also noted the change immediately. But the smaller prize has not hurt ticket sales, he said.

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