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State Economists Fail to Agree on How Lottery Warnings May Impact Education Funding

June 19th, 2019 by Jake Stofan

A debate is raging between state economists over how much money Florida schools might lose if the lottery is required to put warning labels on their products and advertisements.

In an unprecedented move, the state’s Revenue Estimating Impact Conference was unable to agree on a number.

All lottery tickets and advertisements in the state could come with one of two warning labels under a bill awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Either, “WARNING: LOTTERY GAMES MAY BE ADDICTIVE’ or ‘PLAY RESPONSIBLY’.

“Psychiatrists now actually do recognize gambling as an addiction,” said Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Florida State University Gregg Stanwood.

If signed, the Florida Lottery predicts it would lose a minimum of 2.5 percent of its customers.

“You’re stigmatizing them as someone who may have an addictive problem of gambling,” said Jake Felder, Director of Legislative Affairs at the Florida Lottery.

Any loss in revenue could impact education funding in the state.

Florida schools receive more than a billion dollars a year from lottery sales.

Between lost customers, fewer advertisements and the possibility of Muti-state games like Powerball and MegaMillions pulling out of the state, the lottery estimates warning labels would cost education funding between $79 and $232 million a year.

But Stanwood is skeptical warning labels would impact those already addicted.

“There’s loss of control, the person is engaging in doing this even though there’s negative consequences for themselves or for their families,” said Stanwood.

Economists representing the House, Senate and Office of Economic and Demographic Research felt the same.

EDR Coordinator Amy Baker countered the impact would be closer to $25 million,

“If you do have addictive behavior and you’re currently buying tickets, these messages are not going to defer, or change your behavior at all,” said Baker.

But the Governor’s Office sided with the lottery and refused to compromise.

The Governor has already expressed concerns with the bill.

His predecessor vetoed a similar bill in 2017.

The Revenue Estimating Impact Conference says it intends to revisit the lottery warning bill next week in hopes of reaching a compromise on the potential economic impact.

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