State, schools hurt by lottery

May 21, 2008 7:23:50 PM PDT
California public schools are facing a brand new budget problem tonight. They'll feel the effects of a significant drop in lottery ticket sales, but it's not just the schools. The lottery lull could affect the entire state budget.

With gas and grocery prices high, fewer Californians feel like gambling their hard-earned buck away on the lottery.

For former player Kirt Thomas, says he's bored with those scratchers and drawings.

"If I won, maybe I'd start playing some more. I haven't so, it feels like I'm just throwing money away," says Thomas.

Californians like Kirt Thomas has forced state lottery officials to lower sales revenue estimates by nearly $300 million dollars.

The state would like to lure more players by offering larger prizes, but state law caps payouts at 50% of lottery sales.

"To increase prize payouts clearly reflects in more playership and that increases sales. It's a basic reform that the lottery would really like to see,"

Adjusting rules for bigger prizes is at the core of Governor Schwarzenegger's big plans to double lottery sales and borrow against that to pay down the budget deficit ... not more money for schools.

That move is much harder now with sales down and Californians will have to be convinced the gamble is worth it.

"Voters have to see the value of approving that. And they certainly aren't going to see the value in terms of paying back debt in the state government coffers," says State Sen. Dean Florez.

Until lottery sales grow, this latest downturn means schools will see another $100 million less in the new school year.

They typically use lottery money that totals roughly more than a billion dollars a year for one-time expenses like textbooks.

"So the effort to put a textbook in every child's hands is made that much harder," says Public schools lobbyist Teri Burns.

Schools can't really afford to lose any part of their lottery money. The Governor's proposed budget cuts $4 billion dollars from education the cost of living increases for programs.


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