For the first time in Florida Lottery history, the largest unclaimed LOTTO jackpot will be transferred to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund (EETF), pending Legislative Budget Commission approval later this month.
The Florida Lottery supports our state's commitment to education. Besides this unclaimed jackpot, the Lottery has contributed more than $13 billion to education over the last 15 years, with a record $1 billion contributed last year alone. These monies have funded more than 167,000 Bright Futures Scholarships for Florida students and provided resources to build or renovate more than 400 schools across the state. Our community colleges and state universities have also benefited from Lottery revenue.
However, it is important to distinguish between the unclaimed prize money that is routinely returned to the prize structure for scratch-off games and large jackpots that rarely go unclaimed. Each month, $3 to $4 million in Lottery prizes go unclaimed. As soon as this unclaimed prize money is generated, it is pledged to support scratch-off game prize payouts, as much as six months in advance. Our recommendation to transfer the recent unclaimed $50 million LOTTO jackpot ($30.1 million cash value) to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund will in no way affect our standard business practice of reinvesting recurring unclaimed prize money to earn even more money for education. Nor will it affect the prize payouts of any scratch-off game, either currently available or planned for future launch, or the rules governing those games.
By law, the Lottery's mission is to maximize revenues for public education, and our re-investment policy does just that. On average, each dollar reinvested in the Florida Lottery has returned $7.20 in sales and $2.60 in transfers to the EETF. Bottom line - education gets an additional $1.60 net profit for every reinvested dollar. This means that we have to use every dollar generated through the sale of Lottery games to its fullest potential. Every reinvestment strategy must be designed to provide the highest return on that investment. Historically, using unclaimed prize money to increase the prize payouts for scratch-off games has provided the highest and best return on that investment.
An unclaimed prize of $30.1 million is unprecedented. Because it is so rare, the Lottery considered various options for maximizing the benefit of the unclaimed prize pool, including the $30.1 million cash value. Our research shows the amount of revenue from scratch-off ticket sales returned to players in the form of prizes is near the optimal level necessary to maximize revenues for education. Prize payouts above the optimal level provide a diminishing return.
When combined with the current prize pool, adding the $30.1 million unclaimed LOTTO jackpot to the prize pool for scratch-off games would increase the prize payout percentage far beyond the optimal level, resulting in a greatly diminished return to education. Not only would this be a bad business decision, it would prdvent the Lottery from maximizing revenues for education, as required by law.
As Secretary, I have been charged with making sure the Lottery operates within Governor Bush's vision. That vision is to support our state's commitment to education. The result of our decision to transfer this unclaimed jackpot to the EETF will provide much needed assistance to our schools throughout the state this year. This is a win for all of us.
Remember, when you play the Florida Lottery we all win.
Rebecca Dirden Mattingly