Acadiana Business

State may add another multi-state lottery game

by Heather Miller

With the price of Powerball rising next year, Lottery officials discuss adding another $1 jackpot game to the mix. But when it comes to the state divvying up the lottery revenues supposed to be spent on education, it's anyone's guess on who gets what.

If Louisiana gets on board with 41 other states as well as DC and the Virgin Islands, gamblers in Louisiana could have another option when it comes to the jackpot pipe dream they pay into every week when they buy Powerball tickets.

According to The Times-Picayune, Mega Millions, a twice weekly $1 jackpot game, is being considered by state Lottery officials as a way to expand lottery revenues when the price of a Powerball ticket doubles to $2 in 2012:

In 2010, 23 state lotteries signed on to offer Mega Millions, on Tuesday and Friday nights, as part of a cross-selling agreement between the game and Powerball. Louisiana officials passed on bringing it into the fold, opting instead to "study the prospect, and that's what we've been doing," said Rose Hudson, president of the Louisiana Lottery Corp.

At the time, Louisiana officials believed that "the striking similarity between the two games, the saturated gaming market in Louisiana, weighed against the operational cost of launching and maintaining a new draw-style game, we are not confident that enough players would play Mega Millions on a regular basis in addition to what they already play," as Kimberly Chopin, a Louisiana lottery spokeswoman, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in January 2010.

Now, that's changed: Hudson believes the time is ripe because Powerball is set to make the jump in price, and adding Mega Millions will let the state retain a $1 jackpot game. It's also projected to add as much as $8.5 million in lottery sales to the state's books, according to estimates.

But as pointed out by The Tri-Parish Times' website on Aug. 17, the state Department of Education doesn't keep track of how it allocates the 35 percent of Lottery revenues that state law requires be given to education every year.

The LDOE was unable to break down how much each school district receives, nor could it explain the $14 million discrepancy in the $152 million given to the DOE from the state Treasury Department and the $138 million DOE said it received from Lottery revenues:

At the end of July, the Louisiana Lottery Corp. reported annual revenue of $385 million to complete its second best year ever. Of that take, more than $136 million was said by the LLC to have been passed along to public schools in the state as 2011 transfers, a reported 2 percent increase from 2010 levels.

On the surface, if evenly distributed among 1,574 public schools representing 727,598 students registered in grades K-12, each school should receive $244,599.74. The fact is that none of the schools on any levels have any idea of how much they have or have not received from lottery returns.

Public schools across the state are facing financial challenges, including cutbacks of staff, reduced number of teachers and even curriculum as classes resume for a new academic year during the next two weeks.

Read more here and here.