ABC11 Investigates

Is the Education Lottery working?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The North Carolina Education Lottery has taken in more than $6 billion over the past five years. Two billion of that has gone to schools, so is it working? Is it worth it?

Brian Bunn, a lottery playing veteran, says he plays for the thrill but likes the fact that he's helping fund education. He won $60 while playing Thursday.

In fact, a little less than a third of Bunn's money goes to the classroom. Most of it, 58 cents on the dollar, goes to prizes. Thirty cents goes to schools, 7 cents goes to retailers, 3.5 cents goes to advertising and administrative costs and 1.5 cents goes to operating costs.

"It's promoted in NC as a way to raise money for public schools and yet, less than one-third of all the revenue raised goes to public education," said Charles Heatherly, former deputy state treasurer.

Heatherly has been a critic of the state lottery since it began five years ago.

"The projections at that time were, we'll get a half billion dollars a year, first year on the lottery and we'll get a billion dollars a year," he added.

But last year, the lottery's best year yet, less than half a billion went to education.

"To brag that in five years, the lottery has raised $2 billion for education, it's actually taken $6 billion out of the economy," Heatherly said.

A spokesman for the lottery told the ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team that $2 billion is still $2 billion pumped into education over the last five years, but Heatherly questions who is spending that money.

One study last year showed residents in ten of the poorest counties in the state spent the most on lottery tickets.

"[The] lottery exploits the poorest people in NC," according to Heatherly.

But for Bunn, it's not exploitation, it's fun and a chance to make a little something extra and help children at the same time, even if that help is less than some would like.

"[I] hope to win some money and hopefully down the line, some of the money that's supposed to go to education will go there," Bunn added.

The state has lowered the percentage that goes to education. It was 35 percent and now it's 30 percent.

The NC Lottery issued the following statement, "We try to find the right balance between what is paid out in prizes and what we can earn for the state so that we maximize the revenue for education."

The idea is that if there are more winnings, more people will play. If more people play, more money will ultimately go to the classroom.

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lottery, abc11 investigates, jon camp
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