In recent months, Missouri’s embattled lottery has been criticized for not sending as much money as it used to to public education, it’s had its commission members replaced by the governor, and if the incoming speaker of the state House has his way, it faces the possibility of being dumped entirely by voters.
Missouri is one of 44 states with a lottery, and across the country, revenue from lotteries brings in an average of $59 a year per person in profit for states, according to a 2013 study by the Tax Foundation. Even as ticket sales in Missouri have reached record highs — $1.15 billion — the amount it gives to public education has dropped since the last fiscal year: $288.8 million in 2013 to $267.3 million in 2014, according to a state review.
In September, Gov. Jay Nixon (D) replaced the members of the five-person Missouri Lottery’s commission. “I’m not going to be overly critical other than to say I thought it was time for a fresh look,” Nixon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Rep. John Diehl (R), incoming House speaker, called the lottery an “unstable” and “inefficient” source of education funding and said he wants to put its future to a voter referendum in 2016.
“You’re telling people to go pay money in to help fund children’s education and the reality is, only about 25 cents on the dollar actually makes it back into education,” Diehl told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We keep trying to squeeze more money out of the lottery — which often comes from the pockets of those with the lowest incomes — instead of being honest with Missourians that the cost of public education is high, we must address it directly and stop using ‘get rich quick’ gimmicks to make us feel better about it.”
Diehl said he believes lawmakers could find “a consistent stream of general revenue” to fund education should a measure to eliminate the lottery make it onto the ballot and voters decide to do so.
Missouri isn’t the only state to have problems with its lottery this year. In August, the private company that managed Illinois’ lottery was let go after revenue was millions of dollars short of what was expected, and Indiana’s lottery also missed its revenue goal.