Idaho stores sold a record $147 million in lottery tickets during the past year, and the state lottery is giving $36.5 million to the state’s public schools and Permanent Building Fund. The dividend going back to the state is also an all-time high.
Since being created 21 years ago, lottery sales have totaled $2 billion, with close to one-quarter of all sales, $473.8 million, going back into the state. That dividend is split equally between the state building fund and public schools, with $2.5 million this year going to a special Bond Levy Equalization Fund that helps schools pay off their levies.
Gov. Butch Otter and Idaho Lottery Director Jeff Anderson both said the increase in lottery sales over the past three years during a down economy hasn’t come with a rise in problematic ticket buyers addicted to buying Powerball or scratch tickets.
“I think people want to support the schools system, but they also want to win some money,” said Otter, who called the lottery a voluntary tax.
“Our per capita sales are pretty steady, so I don’t think we have problem gaming,” Anderson said. Anderson said that the lottery is refining its assortment of lottery games it sells to increase revenue. He said the state is working to sell more tickets for Powerball and other jackpot games, because they pay a larger share of money back to the state.
Idaho Lottery Commission Chairman Roger Jones said the state lottery plans to increase its record sales next year, which could help the state’s finances.
Rob Sauer with the Idaho Department of Education said the $17 million that will go from the lottery to state-funded schools is a good investment.
While lottery sales may be increasing, with more money flowing into parts of the state budget, Otter said he doesn’t think the state should expand state-sanctioned gambling to include casinos or slot machines. “As far as wide-open gaming, there’s just not the support for that in Idaho,” Otter told IdahoReporter.com. “Obviously, there’s some people that would like to see it. I just don’t see the general support for it.”
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