The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday August 11th

Administration of NC Education Lottery questioned by state officials

The North Carolina Education Lottery has generated more than $2.5 billion for education in the last six years — but some state officials say that’s not enough to justify the program’s existence in its current form.

Critics of the lottery say it misleads the public with falsely optimistic advertising and does not provide enough money to education. Some legislators have even suggested in recent weeks that the word “education” should be dropped from its title.


$2.6 billion
N.C. Education Lottery money devoted to
education in past 6 years

30 percent
of lottery money devoted to education in 2012

N.C. Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, voted in 2005 to initiate the lottery.

He said it helps provide money for public education, but he is now worried that too much of the lottery’s earnings are used for noneducational purposes.

“If we could be reassured that the money went to education, I believe the title could stay,” he said. “But if we can’t, then the title should be changed.”

In 2012, almost 30 percent of the lottery’s total earnings went to education.

The General Assembly mandates that 2.4 percent of lottery money allotted to education be used for UNC-system need-based financial aid.

Another 6.9 percent is allocated to need-based college scholarships.

Van Denton, spokesman for the lottery, said officials make every effort to run the lottery fairly and honestly.

The odds of winning are posted on the website, and independent auditors review the drawings to ensure they are done correctly, Denton said.

“We provide information to help people make the choice, but it’s up to them what they do with their entertainment dollars,” he said. “Everyone knows that the lottery is a game of chance.”

But Michael Munger, a professor of political science at Duke University, said the education lottery should be disbanded entirely because of its shortcomings.

He said it takes money from poor people who do not comprehend the probability of winning but are duped by overly optimistic advertising.

“Stop misleading the public with artificially optimistic ads,” he said.

Munger said that if a private company orchestrated the same ads, it would be illegal.

“The temptation to engage in fraudulent practices is just overwhelming, and fraud is not too strong of a word,” he said.

Glazier said the lottery does not deliberately engage in false advertising, but it should be scrutinized for how much money it devotes to education.

“The door remains open to see whether it’s been a success or not,” Glazier said. “But I do recognize that it has produced an extraordinary amount of income.”

Lottery earnings are distributed fairly to education, so the title should stay, Denton said. He added that the contribution to education has served the state.

“Given the economic times that the state has been in, I think it would have been hard to raise that kind of money without the lottery,” he said.

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