Editor: This highly biased newspaper article was published in Boca Raton News on Friday, April 27. It is presented here to educate lottery players about an unfortunately common form of so-called "analysis", which in reality is nothing more than slanted opinions of certain journalists, who seek only the information that will support their narrow agenda.
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State run lotteries generate in excess of $50 billion a year nationwide.
State run lotteries are fond of saying how much of that money ends up either funding senior programs or education.
Florida's touts education side of its lottery spending. However, School District officials say that the original and stated intent of the state lottery funds was that lottery proceeds would be an enhancement to already approved state education money. Instead, many say that lottery funds have merely replaced what heretofore would have been coming from the state anyway.
So where's the need for lottery horn blowing?
"I'm unimpressed," District Superintendent Dr. Arthur Johnson said in 2005.
His impression hasn't changed much over the last two years:
"The lottery has never been an enhancement. It's always been a replacement — today primarily for capital, or building schools and school recognition dollars," Johnson recently told the Boca Raton News. "When you see the state advertise we built these schools, that's what it means."
And not that Palm Beach County has otherwise been left out of lottery fund dispensations. To the contrary, Palm Beach County is among the top recipients in the state (4th overall) in its receipt of lottery money - receiving nearly six percent of all lottery education funding raised since the lottery began in 1988.
But Johnson said the funding is becoming less each year.
"Everything has been going down. Twenty years ago we were at 10 percent more revenue into kindergarten through grade 12 than today with the lottery," Johnson said.
Since the first lottery ticket was sold Jan. 12, 1988, more than $17 billion has gone to Florida education.
"The percentage of lottery dollars going to public schools versus community colleges and other areas has dropped since they've allocated the funds," said Shirley Knox, School District of Palm Beach County Budget Director. "We used to be 70 percent and now we're 40 percent," said Knox. "We'd like to have more of a share. And so would the universities and community colleges and for construction."
And Knox pointed specifically to the replacement versus enhancement issue.
"When we all voted for the lottery to go to education we thought it would be an enhancement but the lottery came in and replaced funding from other areas. It became a replacement," Knox said, adding that legislators avoided higher sales taxes by using money that would have otherwise gone to education.
How much lottery money is currently going to Palm Beach County Schools?
About $17.8 million will go to county schools this year. Knox said that money would be divided into two pots: about $10 million for school recognition and $7 or $8 million for operating costs. School recognition dollars is based on school grades, if a school receives an A grade or moves up one letter grade, that school receives $100 per student, Knox said.
School grades are based on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment test (FCAT). The operating costs go towards running a school including teachers and other expenses, Knox added. Additionally since 1997, the district has received $137 million from lottery allocations through the Classrooms First program for school construction.
Lottery money is given countywide instead of citywide. However Knox said that school recognition "is entirely dependent on school grades and any Boca school that received an A school grade received that allocation." The operating funds are divided up equally between county schools, she said.
Charter schools are also included. "We look at how much we get per district and per school and then charter schools get prorated a share," Knox said.
Since inception till 2005-2006 school year, Palm Beach County has received a total of $1,066,098,641 in education funding. That includes $181,609,322 for school construction, $110,375,195 for Bright Futures College Scholarships, $57,429,168 for preschool, $445,881,881 for grades kindergarten through grade 12, $84,996,367 for community colleges, $185,806,708 for university, and the total of all is $774,114,124, according to the Florida Lottery website.
And how is lottery money allocated?
Jacqueline Barreiros, Public Affairs Director for the Florida Lottery said, "The Department of Education can decide along with the legislature what category to use it for and how much each district gets."
"The lottery's sole purpose is to increase sales every year and raise as much money to contribute to education," Barreiros said.
However a Florida Department of Education (DOE) spokesperson said, "the legislature decides on distribution to education sections, not DOE."
The School District expects to receive similar lottery funding next school year.
"They haven't released the final budget for next year yet," Knox said. "But we expect almost exactly the same."
The Other Side
What's also the same, according to a study in the Policy Studies Journal is that state-run lotteries have a serious effect on income distributions. More than taxes and other forms of gambling, lotteries promote the growth of inequality. That is, lotteries aid the rich in getting richer and the poor in becoming poorer, according to the study.
The study authors used state-level data to evaluate the effects of various types of legalized gambling, slot machine parlors to lotteries, from 1976-1995. While various types of non-lottery gambling may produce a variety of outcomes, the authors found no evidence that they influence income equality.
"When it comes to income inequality, all types of gambling are not created equal," they conclude.
And state lotteries contribute (although less than is commonly assumed) to gambling problems.
The number of problem gamblers who cite the lottery as the game of choice is small. Repeated analysis of calls to hotlines and admissions to treatment programs confirms this fact. For example, the Iowa Department of Human Services has reported that six percent of the calls to the state's problem gambling hotline relate to lottery play.
But six is greater than zero — and there are in fact persons addicted to lottery products, in particular scratch off lottery products — which is why some critics say that promotional money is almost always spent on scratch off products. Pay attention to lottery advertisements and this becomes clear.
Bottom line for state lotteries and education can perhaps be found in a study written by Stephen Daniels for the North Carolina Family Policy Council in advance of North Carolina approving a state lottery several years ago.
Daniels said: "Far from the benign and seemingly innocent process of transferring funds from willing players to needy schools, the lottery remains an unstable source of income that negatively affects overall state education funding. There are also hidden costs associated with lottery gambling such as addicted gamblers and lost consumer and tax dollars."
"Perhaps most troubling of all, the lottery has little to do with raising money for education.... the lottery is just another way to expand state coffers without having to raise other taxes."
However, the true bottom line — and the only thing more certain than that the lottery is a bad bet for education — or that only suckers buy lottery tickets — is that, indeed, you absolutely can't win, if you don't play.