Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Falling lottery sales reduce education funds

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Lottery, long a cash cow for public education, can no longer pay its share of the bill because of falling ticket sales.

To make up for lost cash, the state has to dig around for spare change. In Tallahassee today, lawmakers will tap $48-million from an account filled with unclaimed checks, forgotten utility deposits and other unclaimed property to stave off cuts to education.

"It's an emergency," said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, a member of the Legislative Budget Commission that must approve the change. "But I can appreciate people not buying lottery tickets when they're having trouble putting gas in their car."

Gambling critics in the Legislature say the new predicament is proof Florida should not rely so heavily on such revenue.

"Gambling is risky. It's stagnant. It's unpredictable, and it's not the best way to balance the budget, " said Rep. Ray Sansom, R-Destin, the likely next speaker of the House.

State economists say lottery sales are down due to the tough economy, particularly because of pain at the gas pump.

"Everything in one shape or fashion comes back to the economy," says Florida's chief economist, Amy Baker. "High gas prices did have an effect."

The prime evidence: Ticket sales in July were $321-million — $21-million less than in July 2007.

The introduction of the multi-state Powerball game in January is expected to rekindle sales, but total sales for all games in 2008-09 is expected to fall short of the estimate lawmakers used to build the budget in May.

The lottery leans heavily on gas stations to promote sales of its scratch-off tickets, Lotto and other games.

At a Chevron outlet on 34th Street S in St. Petersburg, one of the bestselling lottery outlets in the state, winning tickets are hung on a wall to entice bettors. But lately the number of people buying tickets has dipped.

"They just say gas prices are too high, and they ain't got no money to buy," said Lonnie Jones Jr., 51, a retired construction worker who spends time at the store. "They don't buy no tickets. They just buy the gas."

In July, state revenue experts lowered their estimates of yearly lottery sales by $343-million. That in turn reduced the estimate of how much money the lottery would contribute to the state educational enhancement fund by $48.2-million this year.

Lottery money helps to run schools, community colleges and universities and pays for Bright Futures scholarships and other financial aid. It accounts for about 7.5 percent of the state's $21.1-billion education budget.

To cover the lottery shortfall, the Legislative Budget Commission is expected today to reach into another pot of education money with a $135-million surplus. The money comes from unclaimed property, such as unclaimed utility deposits, uncashed checks and jewelry, coins and stamps left in safe deposit boxes.

In a statewide education budget of $21-billion, a $48-million shortfall may seem puny. But teacher-union lobbyist Marshall Ogletree of the Florida Education Association said the decline in lottery revenues is a troubling sign of a much bigger problem.

"It's a very scary trend," Ogletree said. "We're concerned about the bigger picture, that revenues keep falling. Right now, we're holding it together on a shoestring."

The revenue picture for the lottery could be worse, however. In January, Florida will become the 30th state to join the mega­jackpot Powerball game.

"It's slowly picking up, and we think Powerball will make a big impact," lottery spokeswoman Jacqueline Barreiros said.

Times staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Falling lottery sales reduce education funds 09/09/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 10:23am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Days were lost': Why Puerto Rico is still suffering a month after Hurricane Maria

    Hurricanes

    MAUNABO, PUERTO RICO — Before Hurricane Maria tore through the rest of this island, it came to Mayor Jorge Márquez's home.

    A man wades through a flooded road, past a boat, in the Toa Ville community two days after the impact of Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Because of flooding, thousands of people are being evacuated from Toa Baja after the municipal government opened the gates of the Rio La Plata Dam. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti) CGPR130
  2. With college looming, Channel Drive band finds a way to keep on rocking

    Human Interest

    A year and a half.

    That's the time Channel Drive, a band made up of local high school students, had to organize concerts, create music, produce an album and perform in front of audiences before three-fourths of the group were to leave for college.

    One of Channel Drive’s favorite venues is the Brass Mug in North Tampa. Here, from left to right, Colby Williams, Jacob Fleming and Ricardo Ponte command the stage while Alex Carr handles drums.
  3. Florida's unemployment hits 3.8 percent, lowest since April 2007

    Economic Development

    Florida's unemployment rate continued its downward tear in September to hit 3.8 percent — the lowest since April 2007 — as the state added 28,000 jobs over the month.

    Florida's unemployment rate dropped from 4 percent in August to 3.8 percent in September. Pictured is 
Shantia Blackmon (left),from St. Petersburg, talking with Jocelyn Kelley from North Carolina at a Pinellas Schools County Job Fair in June. | [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Study: When you die, your brain knows you're dead

    Health

    Have you ever wondered what happens after you die?

    According to a new study from NYU, researchers say that a person's brain may function after their death. [iStockPhoto]

  5. Gradebook podcast: On HB 7069, with Palm Beach schools superintendent Robert Avossa

    Blogs

    After months of discussion, several Florida school districts filed suit against the Legislature over the contentious HB 7069, calling parts of it unconstitutional. At the same time, some of them also sought grant funding established in the same measure. The Palm Beach County school district did both. Superintendent …

    Palm Beach superintendent Robert Avossa