The Wilson Times

Monday, March 04, 2013 11:31 PM

Lawmakers back lottery name change
Act would cut 'education' from name, limit advertising

By Corey Friedman | Times Online Editor

Powerball tickets aren’t like parent-teacher bake sales, say state lawmakers who want to take "education” out of the North Carolina Education Lottery.

The state-run games would be known as the North Carolina State Lottery under a bipartisan bill filed in the House last week that also would place limits on lottery advertising and commission research on the lotto’s social and economic impact.

"We certainly don’t want to encourage participation, and by including ‘education’ in there, it makes it seem like you’re giving money to a good cause when maybe you shouldn’t be purchasing a lottery ticket at all,” state Rep. Susan Martin said.

Martin, a Wilson Republican, and Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, a Wilson Democrat, are among the Honest Lottery Act’s 53 co-sponsors. The act, also known as House Bill 156, would give lottery players more information about the odds of winning.

"People who participate now would still have that option,” Martin said. "They would just maybe be more informed.”

Lottery ads would be required to disclose the value of each game’s lowest prize and list the odds of winning the prize with the largest value, according to the bill. Proponents say it can be deceptive to list the total odds of winning when most winners don’t hit the multi-million-dollar jackpot.

The bill also would prevent the lottery from sponsoring high school or college sporting events and ban depictions of cartoon characters on lottery tickets.

Farmer-Butterfield said she’d also like to see the lottery better explain the way revenues benefit North Carolina public schools, though the bill doesn’t require lottery advertising to include that message.

"I think it needs to be clear that the schools are getting X amount of money and what they’re doing with it,” she said. "I hear too many professionals and families say, ‘We don’t get any money in our area.’ When I ask, (the lottery) says all the counties get money. I think there’s a lot of confusion about it.”

Fifty percent of net lottery revenues go toward reducing early grade class sizes and funding pre-kindergarten programs, 40 percent is spent on new school construction and 10 percent funds college and university scholarships.

The lottery’s given nearly $2.7 billion to public education in North Carolina since its introduction in March 2006. About $19.4 million has benefited Wilson County, with $7 million helping to pay 139 teachers’ salaries, $7.7 million earmarked for school construction, $2.8 million spent on pre-K programs and nearly $1.5 million funding college scholarships, according to lottery figures.

The Honest Lottery Act would also require the University of North Carolina to research "frequency, amounts spent, family income levels and other socioeconomic factors” of lottery participation.

UNC also would have to develop curriculum "explaining the probabilities and other mathematical features of a lottery game for inclusion as a component of high school courses in civics and mathematics,” according to the bill.

Martin said some lawmakers would prefer not to operate a state-run lottery.

"Since we do have one now,” she said, "we want it to be as responsible as possible. It’s not a big, significant change to what we have. I think it’s more an indication of the philosophy of how we want to approach this in the future.”

Speaker Pro-tem Paul "Skip” Stam and Rep. Jon Hardister, both Republicans, introduced the bill on Feb. 26 with two Democratic primary sponsors, minority leader Larry Hall and Rep. Rick Glazier. Lawmakers referred HB 156 to the Judiciary B subcommittee. | 265-7821

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