Questioning the lottery
Not everyone is thrilled with the N.C. Education Lottery’s decision to chip away at the percentage of proceeds schools end up getting for each lottery ticket sold.
The Lottery Oversight Committee, an advisory committee set up to keep the legislature informed about how the lottery is doing, met Thursday in Raleigh and members lobbed some pretty pointed questions and comments about the state-run lottery.
“I have grave concerns about whether this is the direction we should be going in,” said Molly Griffin, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member and committee member.
They expect to issue a report by the end of the year, in time for legislators to read and ponder before they reconvene in January.
Chief on their concerns is about the drop in the share of what education gets. When the lottery first started, education received 35 cents of every dollar, a formula that was written into state law. That dropped to 29 cents last year, and expected to be 30 percent this year. Committee members also wanted to hear more about the $35 million the lottery got tapped to use to pay Medicaid bills the state has, the first time the lottery’s profits have been used for anything other than educational programs.
( For a more thorough explanation, check out this N.C. Policy Watch report that came out earlier this year.)
There were also thoughts about what to come, given that the state leaders are going to have to figure out how to keep needed services and still contend with what could be a $3 billion shortfall.
The $1.46 billion the lottery hopes to make next year, $441 million of it supposed to go to education, is a might tempting pot of money.
Here’s some of the other questions that committee members had for lottery officials:
Who buys lottery tickets? Answer: lottery officials say they don’t know, and don’t conduct any demographic studies to see if it’s mainly rich, poor or working-class folks who are buying tickets.
Will the lottery’s profit get used to help plug some holes in next year’s budget? Also hard to say. That decision will be made when N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue and the legislature start hashing out next year’s budget. State budget director Charlie Perusse quipped, “That’s an above my paygrade question.”
What’s next year going to look like? With the economy still struggling, lottery officials are expecting a tough time of meeting their projected $1.46 billion in sales.
The oversight committee hopes to have their report out soon. Stay tuned.