By Megan Hughes, WIS-TV
Three years ago, Governor Jim Hodges campaigned for a state lottery modeled after Georgia’s, geared toward college scholarships, “This lottery will revolutionize access to higher education.”
Since his pitch, the lottery was not only introduced, but it has flourished. The lottery has brought in $1.2 billion since 2001 and it continues to grow.
Executive Director Ernie Passailaigue says this year the lottery will probably be the state’s only positive revenue source, “Last year, we generated $45 million more than what the legislature appropriated.”
Where is all that money going?
Fifty-eight percent goes back to prizes. Seven percent goes back to the stores that sell the tickets. Six percent goes to lottery administration and 29 percent goes to education, both scholarships and K-12.
Governor Mark Sanford wants to see more go to education. He proposes cutting down on money that goes back to the stores and administration costs like advertising, “If you look at the lottery’s own analysis, the biggest drive for participation in the lottery is the size of the pot.”
The lottery spends $6.5 million a year on advertising. Sanford is asking them to start producing their commercials in house.
Sanford says even the people who draw the lottery numbers every night take up a portion of the pot, “The lottery spends $60,000 a year for people to stick their hand in a jar. $60,000.”
The governor says the money could help K-12 get a bigger piece of the pie. The money for education is divided up with 62% going to college scholarships and 34% going to K-12 schools. Sanford says last year that amounted to about $80 million for schools, “Our real crisis in education is K-12. If half the kids don’t make it through high school, the least of our worries is college.”
Frank Knapp of The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce says the lottery’s intent was to help with tuitions, “I think it’s unfair to go back and renege on that promise simply because there are other educational needs.”
The question remains. Just who should the education lottery educate?