Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stakes Raised on State Lottery Study to Tout Ways Games Help

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stakes Raised on State Lottery Study to Tout Ways Games Help

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Amid worries that a national commission on the effects of legalized gambling is about to clamp down on state lotteries, Georgia is spending $250,000 on a nationwide study of their economic benefits.

But commission observers say fears for the future of lotteries are overblown, while some Georgia lawmakers criticize spending taxpayer money to examine issues with a scope far beyond the state's borders.

The study, to be conducted by the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government, will address a topic given short shrift by the 2-year-old National Gambling Impact Study Commission, said Rebecca Paul, president of the Georgia Lottery Corp.

"They've done all kinds of research as to the economic impact of casinos," she said. "But there has never been a public policy institute looking at the economic impact of lotteries on the nation."

In Georgia, the lottery helps pay the HOPE scholarship and pre-kindergarten programs. Since the lottery started in 1993, it has contributed more than $3 billion to state education programs.

Thirty-six other states put lottery revenue toward a variety of uses, including highways, senior citizen programs and state parks.

"We need to know things like how many teachers have been hired at UGa because of the HOPE scholarship program," Paul said. "How many parents are being benefited by pre-kindergarten? That's an expense that comes directly out of their budgets."

Congress created the national commission in 1997 to study the economic and social effects of legalized gambling, which has expanded greatly during the 25 years since the most recent national study. It has until June 18 to submit a report.

President Clinton and congressional leaders of both parties divided the appointments among religious conservatives who oppose gambling on moral grounds and representatives of casino interests. Notably absent is anyone from the lottery industry.

As a result, the commissioners appear to be tilted against state-run lotteries, said David Gale, executive director of the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries. …

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