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State's Lottery Bet Coming Up Short

One year after the North Carolina Education Lottery launched, revenue is short of projections.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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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