Penny-pinching Floridians aren't playing the lottery as much as expected, and that's bad news for state legislators trying to minimize school budget cuts next year.
Lackluster ticket sales have prompted state economists to reduce their projection for this year's sales by $47 million. They also scaled back projections for the next two years by $159 million.
"The news just gets better and better, huh?" said a wry Rep. Ray Sansom, R-Destin, the House budget chairman.
The lower predictions complicate an already dismal budget outlook in Tallahassee.
Lawmakers, already grappling with a drop in state tax collections, must finalize a 2008-09 state budget during the next three weeks. And they're already planning to cut school spending for the first time in decades. The new forecast could mean deeper cuts. Lottery dollars account for about 5 percent of the state's education spending.
The state Revenue Estimating Conference, economists who work for the Legislature and governor, placed the blame for slower ticket sales on the economy, writing, "Pressure is being placed on the discretionary spending dollar of consumers."
They also said the recent addition of lottery enhancements isn't bringing in the cash that might be expected because they "were introduced at approximately the same time, in the current unfavorable economic environment."
For example, the lottery's new $30 ticket game, which offers bettors more chances to win bigger prizes, has been offset by reduced sales of existing $20 tickets.
Lottery sales are still expected to grow from this year's $1.28 billion. But sales are now projected to grow just 3 percent to $1.32 billion in 2008-09; and 2 percent to $1.35 billion in 2009-10. Gov. Charlie Crist, among others, had hoped for more money to help cope in the tight fiscal times.
Sansom and other House leaders oppose expansion of gambling and say that the slow growth in the lottery is proof that balancing the budget on bettors' habits is unwise.
"Gambling is a stagnant source of revenue. We've always known that," said House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami.
The House budget approved on a 72-41 vote Thursday relies on lottery money for a range of programs, from school recognition grants to class size reduction and Bright Futures scholarships.
The Senate budget approved Wednesday calls for plugging most of a $185 million cut in higher education with additional lottery revenues. That, plus a proposed 6 percent tuition hike, would allow universities and community colleges to squeak by with negligible budget cuts of less than 2 percent.
Without all that lottery money, senators would have to cut a little deeper or to search for another source of replacement revenue in the worst budget year in decades.
"It's going to make us readjust some, but I don't think it will be terrible," said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, chair of the higher education budget committee and likely a lead negotiator in the forthcoming budget conference. "I live and hope that in conference something magical will happen."
"Sansom and other House leaders oppose expansion of gambling and say that the slow growth in the lottery is proof that balancing the budget on bettors' habits is unwise."
Translation: Since the budget Sansom and other purposed is higher than revenues, they must blame it on slower than expected lottery sales.
The average tax payer knows they can't spend more than they make in a year and their budget isn't depended upon hitting the lottery for "extra" income, but apparently Sansom and the others planned on hitting the lottery.
If they expanded their horizons a bit and:
#1 Offered a Midday Game too. (How much can that costs to host?)
#2 Offered Online Betting options (and sales to people in other states)
would be a great start!
Maybe someone heard you because I saw a sign at the store tonight that said Florida will start a Midday drawing on May 19th. Hooray!
Now I don't have to wait til 8 p.m. anymore.
Yep. The new drawing will be at 1:30 pm. So you can win twice in one day!
Do you happen to have any info (online) about this ?
The Florida Lottery website has nothing on this in any section of their website.
And my local stores seem to be clueless..
Any info would be great.
I just spoke with a customer service rep at FLA LOTTERY on the phone.
IT IS TRUE.
MAY 19th is the DAY for MIDDAY DRAWS!!!!
The Florida schools might lose some funding as a result of this but all too often any state with a lottery that talks about "bucks for education" uses voo doo accounting and those "bucks for education" become part of a shell game.
The money from the lottery does indeed go into the school system, but an equal or greater sum is taken out of the school system from somewhere else.
That's not the lottery's fault, but it makes the lottery appear to be the bad guy when there is a shell game going on.
i played the fl lottery last time i went to orlando. i won nothing. the scratch off's are horrible... i bet that scratch off's are worst in bigger states
I guess the crooks in government, called politicians, forgot that the original concept of the lottery was to support education, not replace it. Having said that, they immediately started not providing funds for education. Remember the tobacco fiasco? The states were supposed to help smokers stop smoking. Instead they started spending like $10M lottery winners - stupidly! Tobacco money is gone, so the state government started raising taxes to support their habit of spending money. Now that people are no longer spell-bound, to shiny lure, called the lottery, the state government doesn't want to slow down their spending habits. The lottery may not be a tax, but you can bet your booty, that is a tax supplement. When the sales drop, tax increases will soon follow. As other have said before me, shine the lure,, with bigger payouts on scratch cards, and in-state daily drawings, and the addicts in the state capital will once again be passified.
Many Floridians spend their lottery money next door in Georgia playing MM. So Florida, wake up! Bring MM to Florida and keep your Dollar$ at home! for Florida schools.
"Lottery sales are still expected to grow from this year's $1.28 billion."
IMO I think the state is making a ton of money, considering the current economy. What do they expect with all the foreclosures, high unemployment and inflation?
Lollipop, maybe we should start a poll. I disagree that many people in FL drive to GA, but I could be wrong. From my neck of the woods, it would take me an entire day to get to GA and back plus around $100 in gas. I can see driving from Jacksonville or the Panhandle, but FL is a very long state. Considering the MM odds, it would make more sense to blow $100 on Lotto tickets instead (and save me the backache.) The odds for Lotto are less than 1:23M compared with 1:176M and the current $25 million jackpot sounds great to me.
I posted in Feb that I didn't think the new Lotto bonus would work. The Powerplay idea makes more sense. People realize that by spending an extra buck their odds aren't going to increase. If they have a second chance drawing or increase the lower tier prizes, then maybe more people will check the $2 box.
People living in Key West don't drive to GA and ask the clerk for $2 worth of Mega Millions tickets twice a week?
"Considering the MM odds, it would make more sense to blow $100 on Lotto tickets instead (and save me the backache.)"
I live in a Mega Millions state and hardly play it because I only have 1 in 40 chance of winning anything. There probably are people that live close to the GA border that play when the jackpot is huge and maybe a few people in the Orlando or even Miami do too until they figured out they had to make a second trip to cash a $5 ticket after spending $100 or more for gas.
"I posted in Feb that I didn't think the new Lotto bonus would work."
The bonus bet is for the people who drive drive from Miami to GA twice a week to play Mega Millions.
Those freakin' crooks. You pick the winning numbers and they the government take about half. They're the biggest mafia.