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State's education fund gets record lottery payout

Sum still falls short of mandated 35 percent of profit

POSTED: July 28, 2014 12:33 a.m.

Benny Bennett picks out a scratch-off lottery ticket Friday from clerk Melissa Young at the BP convenience store on Thompson Bridge Road. Lottery ticket sales remain strong as last week the Georgia Lottery Corp. reported its largest single-year transfer to the state's education fund,

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The Georgia Lottery Corp. last week reported its largest single-year transfer to the state’s education fund, which supports financial aid for pre-kindergarten and higher education students.

The lottery’s $945 million transfer to the state for the 2014 fiscal year surpasses last year’s record by $17.6 million.

The total raised for education is now more than $15.5 billion since the lottery’s inception in 1993.

Legislation authorizes the lottery state’s payouts to education should be around 35 percent.

But the Georgia Lottery Corp. has not met that mark since 1997.

Last year, payouts to education totaled about 25.5 percent of revenue, and that figure remained unchanged in fiscal year 2014.

According to lottery officials, total lottery revenues in the 2014 fiscal year were $4.02 billion, with $3.7 billion in net proceeds.

Lottery officials say slashing prize payouts to grow profit decreases sales.

In Hall County, nearly 25,000 students have received HOPE scholarship and grant aid over the past 20 years, and more than 19,000 pre-K students have benefited.

In all, about $175 million has been distributed to Hall County students.

Brenau University reports 509 students were eligible last academic year for HOPE and Zell Miller scholarship and grants, and more than 70 percent of incoming freshmen are eligible for financial aid supported by the lottery.

Prize payouts to players in Hall County total nearly $519 million, and local retailer commissions total more than $54 million.

Melissa Young, who works at the BP convenience store on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville, said scratch-off tickets have become increasingly popular, while drawings such as the Mega Millions receive more interest the greater the payout.

Hall County resident Benny Bennett stopped by the store last week to pick up a few scratch-off tickets, which he said are his favorite to play.

Retailers who sell winning tickets often find that word gets out, and regular lottery players tend to gravitate toward stores with a track record of success.

Young said Fridays are often the most popular days to play the lottery because large cash drawings are made over the weekend. Friday is also payday.

But despite the lottery’s successes, it remains controversial, namely because low-income people play more than others.

For example, a 2011 report in the Journal of Gambling Studies reports the "poor are still the leading patron of the lottery."

In 2012, Bloomberg Rankings reported Georgia lottery players spent the second-highest amount of their income on games.

And in 2010, Georgia residents spent an average of 1 percent of their income on the lottery.


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