Big lottery prizes benefit schools

Big lottery prizes benefit schools

(Fla.) With the nation anticipating the winner of today’s $500-plus mega million jackpot, lottery officials in Florida have announced the transfer of $26 billion in funding since 1988 to K-12 education – one of the nation’s largest gaming benefactors.

The milestone comes in the wake of a record 2012, where sales exceeded $5 billion and led the nation’s 10 largest lotteries in terms of overall growth as well as growth in contributions to beneficiaries. This year, like many state lotteries rebounding from the recession, Florida reports sales continuing to rise, trending over 7 percent higher than last year.

“The Florida Lottery has established itself as a billion-dollar-a-year resource for education, and continues to flourish,” said Florida Lottery Secretary Cynthia O’Connell in a statement. “The Lottery takes its commitment to education seriously, and Floridians can always count on the Lottery to generate additional funds to benefit the state’s most valuable resource of its future – our students.”

State lotteries contributed a total of $19.4 billion in 2012 to government programs – an increase of about $1 billion from 2011 – with much of it going to K-12 schools, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

Sales overall totaled slightly more than $68 billion with $42 billion in prize money awarded last year. Those numbers represent an increase from 2011, when sales reached $63 billion and transfers totaled $18.3 billion.

Although typically only a small fraction of the education budget in most states, lottery games nonetheless remain an important source and one which state officials continue to tinker with in hopes of generating additional income.

In California, for instance, a change in law three years ago gave lottery managers authority to increase payouts to 87 percent of ticket sales. As a result, the profit transfers to schools reached a record $1.3 billion in 2011-12 (the most recent official number) – which represents a significant jump from the $1 billion schools had been traditionally getting.

But in New York, which shifted its payout percentage in favor of players decades ago, the share going to schools has stalled in recent years. The New York lottery, the nation’s largest, transferred $2.1 billion to schools in 2012-13 – about the same as in previous years.

In Ohio, home to the nation’s 10th largest lottery, state officials also report having a stellar 2012-13 but are growing concerned about the sales trend. Officials in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan are also watching the sales pattern with concern.

While the total amount that the Florida lottery has provided schools is substantial, it is not the most in the nation. New York, which began its lottery in 1966, has transferred more than $45 billion to schools.

California’s lottery, which started in 1985, has raised more than $25 billion for K-12, community colleges and universities. Pennsylvania’s has contributed $22 billion but not all of that went to schools.

Ohio has transferred $17 billion since 1974; Texas has contributed $15 billion since 1997; and Georgia has provided $14 billion since 1992.