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State's Lottery Bet Coming Up Short

Posted March 27, 2007

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— One year after the North Carolina Education Lottery launched, revenue is 26 percent below projections.

The state began selling its first scratch-off tickets a year ago Friday. To date, the lottery has brought in $885 million, less than three-quarters of the $1.2 billion state lawmakers expected in the lottery's first year.

Lottery officials continue to adjust the available games to try to bring in more revenue. A $5 NASCAR-themed game that was unveiled Tuesday offers a top prize of $100,000 and gives players a chance to win NASCAR-licensed merchandise or a trip to a NASCAR race.

Scratch-offs make up more than half of gross sales for the lottery, since Powerball launched at the end of May, and daily numbers games didn't start until October, but players have complained that the games don't have enough winners.

Gov. Mike Easley has suggested diverting more revenue to prizes to help build sales, and he also would like to use more lottery money on pre-kindergarten programs and less on school construction. His proposed budgete projects $1.5 billion in revenue from the lottery in the coming year.

State lawmakers are wary of tinkering with the lottery, which passed by narrow margins in both the House and Senate two years ago.

"Most people around here feel it's better to let the lottery operate like it's going and not tweak it this time around," said state Rep. Jim Crawford, D-Granville.

"Somebody could have an amendment that could try to abolish the lottery or do something else that no one's talked about yet," said state Sen. Janet Cowell, D-Wake.

Cowell voted against the lottery, but said the state is already addicted to the money, so she doesn't want to stop it now.

"Part of the original concern was that this is not a steady funding stream," she said.


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  • regularguy_nc-at-yahoo.com Mar 28, 2007

    Jokerman... did you ask her who's money it was?

  • AmericaFirst Mar 28, 2007

    The Sandhills region is the center of the NC horse industry, in addition to being a golf mecca (Oooops! Do I risk getting blown up for that ?). Why not legalize horseracing, since we already have legal gambling in the form of a lottery? The pay-offs would be much smaller, but more people would have a chance to win and the races would be fun to watch. The Cherokee have gambling casinos, the state has the lottery, there's "informal" betting on sports events..the field is wide open. Carpe diem; opportunities abound.

  • KeDecker Mar 28, 2007

    Hmmm I am new to North Carolina. So there is a lottery system that brings in money for education. Hmmm.... Gamble to raise money for kids. That's an interesting concept. Quite interesting.

  • hpr641 Mar 28, 2007

    McClayton, you asked "where did the other $62 million go?" Simple, the "other" $62 million never existed. The "other" money is actually about $28 million - which goes to pay the winner's income taxes.

    Remember, when the billboards show that Powerball's jackpot is at, say your $100 million, remember that is assuming the winner takes the money in 30 equal yearly annuity payments (before taxes). Of course, due to inflation, the $3.33M they get in 2037 will only be worth about $1.25M in today's dollars. Point is this: There is only about $60 million in a "$100 million" jackpot. Then, the winner pays income taxes on that.

  • YoucanthandletheTRUTH Mar 28, 2007

    To Normal Thinking: Your statement said, "a tax on the poor? what a crock the lottery is the only hope most of these "poor' people will ever have of hitting the big time. if it were not for the lottery they would not even be able to dream about it the odds are crazy but at least there is a dream."
    I don't think the lottery is a tax on the poor b/c they choose to play but HELLO---The chance of hitting the big time lies in getting an education, not dreaming of winning the lottery! Get real! Dream your way out of poverty...yeah that will get you somewhere...how about go earn it!

  • yacs Mar 28, 2007

    68-polara: "How can we be so heartless?"

    If you really mean that, then kudos to you for your compassion. I don't know who you are, so I have no way of knowing how you feel about it and no right to judge your sincerity. Hope you don't feel like I have. But I do judge the sincerity of the people I know who have made the same argument -- I've heard it many times and never was it sincere. Everyone I personally know who said we're hurting the poor with a lottery, was strongly anti-welfare and didn't give a care about the poor. In other words, they were hypocrites. All they cared about was their own contributions to the welfare system. Nothing wrong with that -- I don't like giving people money if they don't really need it, either. But the hypocrites I'm talking about had no business couching that as actual concern for the poor.

    Again, kudos to you for your compassion!

  • yacs Mar 28, 2007

    Jokerman: "I think a person's responsibility is to use their own money to support themselves and their family, and only use the tax dollars (WIC, welfare, food stamps, etc.) when they have done all they can do and still need help."

    Yes, I agree with that. Unfortunately, there will always be free riders -- that's just a part of society. It burns me up when I see someone in need spending a really huge amount on frivolities. Then again, even the poor deserve a little fun and a little hope.

    Also, I know that's the sort of thing people are talking about when they say "tax on the poor" but a lack of lottery won't prevent such behavior. If someone wants to be frivolous, they'll find a way.

    I work downtown, and I can't count the number of times someone has panhandled me for "food money" while smoking a cigarette -- same thing, in my eyes. The poor waste money on cigs and drive up our healthcare costs at the same time, but many North Carolinians are anti-lottery and pro-tobacco.

  • 68_polara Mar 28, 2007

    "Many of the people who object to the lottery, do so on a moral basis"
    This is accurate. What is so morally objectable is that the state is running games which entice people who really can't waste money like this. Normally how other people spend their money is of course non of anyone else's business, however in this case we have allowed our state government to take advantage of these people. We should be ashamed of our selves! For those who play for fun no harm is done, but from what income level do you think the majority if this money being spent on the lottery comes from?

    How can we be so heartless?

  • someone in Raleigh Mar 28, 2007

    It's interesting to hear these statistics about the lottery, especially after hearing how much the state takes out of the winnings as taxes. If someone were to win say $100 Million, they may see $38 after all the taxes and fees. Explain to us where the other $62 Million went. Also, if Thomas Shaheen - Executive Director is making a salary of over $500K per year, what is he doing to actually earn that money? According to news sources, the salaries at the NC Lottery offices are some of the highest paid state jobs in the state. Is there somewhere that we can see an itemized list of where and how the Lottery money is being spent? This should all be public knowledge shouldn't it?

  • Jokerman Mar 28, 2007

    I was in a grocery store the other day, and saw a woman buy a cart load of groceries with our tax dollars (yes, I mean "food stamps") and then pull cash money out of her pocket and buy $10 worth of lottery tickets. I'm not against helping people that truly need it, but I gotta tell ya, I was real upset seeing her use tax money for food and her money for lottery tickets.

    I think a person's responsibility is to use their own money to support themselves and their family, and only use the tax dollars (WIC, welfare, food stamps, etc.) when they have done all they can do and still need help. If I have "extra" money for lottery tickets then I have not done all I can do, and so I've not fulfilled my personal responsibility to me or my family.