The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday January 28th

Lottery in S.C. Could Affect N.C.

With state lottery systems both north and south of North Carolina, millions of dollars leave the state.

Economists predict that the new lottery will funnel millions of dollars into South Carolina annually from N.C. residents who buy lottery tickets.

Chuck Neely, founder of Citizens United Against the Lottery, an anti-lottery lobbying group, projected that as much as 10 percent of S.C. lottery revenue will come from N.C. residents. "With the total of $450 million that is expected to come in, about $45 million will go from North Carolina to South Carolina," he said.

According to the S.C. Lottery Commission, seven of the 72 reported people winning more than $1,000 have been from North Carolina.

But Mike McLaughlin, editor of N.C. Insight, a magazine published by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research, said the revenue loss could be much higher. McLaughlin cited statistics from the Virginia lottery indicating that $100 million, or 8 percent, of Virginia's lottery revenue comes from N.C. residents.

"There is more population along the South Carolina border than along the Virginia border," McLaughlin said. "So ultimately people will spend more money in South Carolina than Virginia."

McLaughlin added that the presence of a lottery in states bordering North Carolina might increase the likelihood of the creation of a state lottery.

He said it becomes difficult for North Carolina to remain lottery-free as more money crosses state lines.

"North Carolina is the largest state in the U.S. without a lottery," McLaughlin said. "These lotteries are usually blown out of fiscal distress, and these are factors that continue to pressure North Carolina."

Neely said he is confident the S.C. lottery will not change the minds of N.C. legislators, although it will aid lottery proponents in North Carolina.

"Based on my discussion, I believe that the majority of the General Assembly is convinced that a state lottery wouldn't benefit North Carolina," Neely said. "It would not help education, and it would (prey) on the poor."

One of Gov. Mike Easley's campaign platforms was the creation of a lottery in North Carolina to help fund education.

But Neely said the revenue lost to South Carolina would not be detrimental to the state economy.

S.C. officials have not made projections about how much lottery money will come from North Carolina.

But Bill Gillespie, a member of South Carolina's Board of Economic Advisers, said ticket sales are highest near the state line.

An attendant at Granny's One Stop Grocery, located almost two miles south of the N.C.-S.C. border, said more than 90 percent of lottery ticket sales come from N.C. residents, with some regulars spending upwards of $100.

Gillespie said "We had more sales around the Charlotte area than around some of the inner parts of our state."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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