Scratch-off tickets in the North Carolina Education Lottery (NCEL) will go on sale in 15 days, and retailers around the state are getting ready for the games to begin.
Chip King of Neb King Inc. in Person County plans to sell lottery tickets at his convenience stores. But King said he was about a week behind other stores as far as getting geared up to offer lottery tickets to customers however, since there was a small glitch in the "massive application process," for his five stores.
Kassie Talley at Coloney Convenience Mart on Durham Road participated in a training session on March 8 and feels confident about selling, validating and confirming tickets. She said the training also gave pointers on accounting that will be associated with selling lottery tickets.
Retailers must go through training in order to get their terminals activated to sell tickets, according to the NCEL.
100 terminals a day
The lottery's contractor, GTECH Corporation, has about 60 crews stationed across the state to install more than 100 terminals each day, according to NCEL. Terminals will not be fully operational until the lottery start day — Thursday, March 30.
According to Veronica Green of NCEL, as of yesterday, 28 retailers had applied to sell lottery tickets in Person County.
Green said that some stores may have machines and be on the NCEL list of approved retailers but that the machines will not be activated on March 30 if store employees have not completed GTECH training by that date.
Colony Convenience Mart's Talley said she expects an increase in business once the lottery tickets go on sale. Many customers have been asking about it, said Talley, who acknowledged she is "ready to get started."
The Fas Mart south of town on U.S. 501 is also preparing to sell tickets, according to Assistant Manager Tiffany Jones, but employees have not gone through training yet.
The machine was installed last week, she said, and she, another assistant manager and the store manager plan to attend a training session in Charlotte soon. In turn, the three will train other store employees.
N. C. machines different
Jones went to Virginia a while back to gain some training on lottery ticket machines there, but she said this week that the North Carolina machines are much different from those used in Virginia.
She said she was excited about the lottery beginning but also a little worried about the other people who work in the store "getting used to it (selling tickets) and still juggling customers."
The store is in constant contact with the lottery commission, Jones said, and the ticket machine must be kept on at all times in order to receive updates.
The lottery commission will pay lottery game retailers seven percent of the retail price of lottery tickets, or shares, sold for each lottery game.
According to the North Carolina Lottery Commission, 100 percent of the net proceeds of the North Carolina Education Lottery will go to education expenses, including reduced class size in early grades, academic pre-kindergarten programs, school construction, and scholarships for needy college and university students.
Person County Schools Supt. Ronnie G. Bugnar said Tuesday he had heard that the lottery commission estimates about $160 million per year going into education from the lottery. North Carolina public schools estimate current needs at $6.2 billion, Bugnar said, therefore, "It will take a while for those who need them to build new schools" with the help of lottery proceeds.
The Lottery Commission says the net proceeds to education will flow as follows: Five percent goes to the Education Lottery Reserve Fund to be used when lottery proceeds fall short of the target. The Reserve Fund may not exceed $50 million.
Fifty percent of the total remainder will be used for the reduction of class size ratios in early grades to 18 children per teacher and for pre-kindergarten programs for at-risk four-year-olds who would not otherwise be served in high-quality settings.
Supt. Bugnar said Gov. Mike Easley had already "prepaid" for lower class sizes and More at Four programs, so the state will have to be repaid from lottery funding once the tickets go on sale.
Bugnar said he also is under the impression that Easley plans to use some lottery funds to increase teacher salaries.
According to NCEL, 40 percent of the total remaining funds after class reduction and pre-K programs will be used for school construction. Roughly 65 percent of this total will be distributed to each county based on total school enrollment.
None for charters
John Betterton, principal of Bethel Hill Charter School, said this week he still is dismayed because the original legislation allowing charter schools in North Carolina effectively excludes them from receiving any lottery funding for construction.
As the laws stand now, Betterton said, "30,000 public school children are left out" of lottery proceeds. "This has got to be an oversight," Betterton said, "and I can't see any legislator allowing it to continue."
The state's League of Charter Schools and NC SELF (North Carolina Students for Equitable Lottery Funding) are trying to organize and "get the message to the public and educators," said Betterton, "that 30,000 children should not be left out" of the lottery. "If we're going to have it," he said, "it ought to be equitable."
After all other funds are distributed for school construction, class size reduction and pre-K programs, the remaining 35 percent of the lottery's total proceeds will be distributed to each county with average effective county property tax rates above the state average based on total school enrollment.
Ten percent of the total remainder will be used for college scholarships for students who qualify for the federal Pell Grant. These scholarships can be used at North Carolina public and private universities and community colleges.
No big cash influx
Overall, said Supt. Bugnar, Person County Schools won't realize a big influx of cash from the lottery. Should the county find itself in a position similar to Wake County, he said, and need to build new schools, then lottery proceeds could "take some of the heat off of county coffers" for school construction. As it stands now, Bugnar said, some of the lottery funding earmarked for construction could be used here for renovations and new roofs.
Historically, however, Bugnar said, if a "lottery is passed for education, after a while, we don't know where the money goes."
Superintendents who have previously worked in states like South Carolina, that have had a lottery for a while, said Bugnar, have told him that the public and lawmakers tend to think that because of the lottery, "we've got all the money we need" in education, "but that's not true."
As of Feb. 28, the NCEL had received about 5,800 applications from retailers across the state who hope to sell tickets when the first scratch-off games begin. The multi-state Powerball lottery game is scheduled to start May 30.