AUSTIN, Tx. — The Texas Lottery Commission on Nov. 9 — just ahead of Veterans Day — will start selling the first scratch-off ticket dedicated to a cause other than public education, where game profits now go.
The Veterans Cash scratch-off ticket is predicted to pour $9 million a year into veterans' services when fully operational, and $5 million for the start-up year. The red, white and blue, eagle-adorned tickets will cost $2 apiece with a top prize of $20,000.
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and Rep. Chris Turner, D-Burleson, said Monday the dedicated ticket, backed by veterans' groups and created under a new law, was a tough sell.
"I found out quickly that there's a reason we've had a lottery for nearly 20 years in Texas and no one has ever managed to pass a bill to create a dedicated game like this," said Turner, calling the lottery "an institution the Legislature doesn't like to modify."
The two lawmakers said they assured colleagues that based on the experience of other states with tickets similarly dedicated to veterans, the new approach wouldn't siphon money from education.
Backers said they expect people who may not normally play the lottery to buy these tickets, and other tickets as well. Veterans groups plan a push to let their members know about the new game; John Miterkoof Vietnam Veterans of America called it "veterans helping veterans."
After the usual deduction for prizes and other costs, 23 percent of ticket proceeds will go to the Permanent Fund for Veterans' Assistance for such services as transportation to veterans' hospitals, counseling and housing for homeless veterans.
James Cunningham a retired U.S. Army Reserve major who heads the Texas council of chapters of the Military Officers Association of America, said the ticket will provide "the consistency of funding that we've got to have." Van de Putte said some lawmakers had worried that the veterans' scratch-off would be the opening wedge for a slew of proposals for dedicated tickets.
"Folks said, 'Is this going to be like license plates?'" said Van de Putte, referring to special plates that raise money for particular causes. "I said, 'Not if you exercise restraint.' Basically the only people that have a say-so are members of the Legislature."
While there are many worthy causes, Van de Putte said it's easy to make the case that helping veterans should have special status because of their extraordinary contribution.
"They sacrifice. They lose their lives," she said. "If you walk around the Capitol, I don't see any monuments to those who have fallen in service for the environment or some other cause."