CA Lottery may not be fulfilling its promise to help fund local schools, here's why:
FRESNO, Calif. —
Millions play and billions of dollars are made each year through the California Lottery but the money made may not be going where it’s supposed to.
The houses, cars, the travel, what would you do with hundreds of millions of dollars?
Whether you've bought a ticket or not chances are you too have had the hope of striking it rich with the California Lottery.
But the odds are not in your favor.
In a group of 292 million people, 292 will be struck by lightning, and only one will strike it rich.
But there is a consolation prize in playing and in fact, it's the reason why the lottery got started in the first place.
For every dollar you put in to test your luck, close to 25 cents is going back to education.
So, of that money, how much ends up in to the central valley?
This last fiscal year. Fresno county received more than $51 million, Kern County ended up with $46 million, Kings $6 million, Madera almost $7 million, Mariposa close to 400,000 Merced almost $15 million, San Joaquin County, $34 million, and lastly Tulare County saw $24 million lotto dollars.
All in all, that adds up to about $184 million dollars and the entire state gets close to $1.7 billion.
Sounds like a lot, right?
Jon Coupal, the president of the Howard Jarvis foundation, a taxpayer advocate organization, says not really.
"The lottery only really provides what we consider budget dust to education," said Coupal.
The state education budget being $97 billion, so the $1.7 billion lottery contribution is less than two percent of what schools need.
"So was this another bait and switch initiative, probably. People always ask us well what about the lottery, what about the lottery. The reality is the lottery generates very little money in terms of the total percentage of the education budget," said Coupal.
So is the lottery fulfilling its promise to help fund our local schools technically yes, but could it do more? Coupal says the answer is yes to that as well.
"According to the initiative creating the lottery half of the money it's generated is supposed to go to education," said Coupal.
But less than half of that actually is and that's because of a law passed in 2010 that gives the lottery discretion to decide how much money goes where in an effort to get more to play.
Right now, the biggest chunk of change is going to payouts, that's more than $4 billion.
About $400 million is going to the stores that sell the winning ticket and what the Howard Jarvis foundation says could see major cut backs is the more than $200 million spent on operating expenses.
"There's some bipartisan efforts to rein in some of the oversight or provide additional oversight for the California Lottery," said Coupal.
But again, even if the $200 million gets added to the $1.7 billion and let's say another billion is cut from the payoffs and added to schools, that's still less than $3 billion going to cover a $97 billion budget.
Not a big enough piece of the pie, and at what cost?
"There's some issues with the lottery, number one a lot of people who play the lottery can't really afford to be playing the lottery. We see a lot of low income people playing the lottery thinking they're going to win big," said Coupal.
Coupal says the game preys on the poor and is responsible for dangerous gambling addictions.
So, is the lottery bringing more harm than good?
"Should a government agency in this case, the state of California be a willing enabler of people's gambling habits?," said Coupal.
Either way, he says gambling will be around and having a game like the lottery, which operates through the state, is the lesser of two evils.
"The argument is its better for the state to do it because its regulated and it will be not corrupt. Now I’m not so sure those things have borne out. But the reality is legalized lotteries run by government institutions are bound to be safer and bound to be less corrupt than those run by organized crime," said Coupal.
The money the California Lottery distributes to each county and school district is then used by the individual school boards for whatever need they have.