Local News

State Lawmaker Takes Gamble On New Lottery Bill

Posted May 11, 2004 3:59 a.m. EDT

— Everytime the Powerball jackpot gets high, North Carolinians go to Virginia or South Carolina to buy a ticket, but one state lawmaker has a new twist on the ongoing lottery debate.

"We're the only state on the East Coast without a lottery, and I really hate to see our money go to educating kids in other states when we so desperately need it ourselves," Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank.

Owens has a new way to keep that money in North Carolina -- a local option lottery. For example, if 25 counties approved a lottery, they could have one and reap 25 percent of the revenue for school construction. The other 75 percent of the revenue would go into a state education fund.

The concept for the lottery may be new, but it still has the same opponents.

"What will be crazy about it is local communities with the most desires of having a lottery will be the poorest communities in our state," said Rep. Sam Ellis, R-Wake.

"The government doesn't need to be involved in promoting gambling. It's just bad business all the way around," said Rep. Russell Capps, R-Wake.

House leaders admit the votes for the proposed lottery plan are not there.

"We don't have the votes in the House to do the lottery nor taxes of any kind, so rather than waste time on things we don't have the votes for, we'll do things we do have the votes for," House Speaker Jim Black said.

Gov. Mike Easley did not include a lottery in his budget proposal this year. He said the lottery is the only solution to cutting taxes in the future.

Some of the commissioners in Wake County told WRAL that while they would be willing to put the lottery on a local ballot, they do not believe it would pass.

A lottery bill has been introduced at the General Assembly every year since 1983. During that time, lottery legislation came up for a vote four times and failed four times.