Lawmakers Look For Ways To Leverage Lottery For More Education Money

Nov 4, 2015

Credit Florida Lottery

Florida lawmakers are looking into a plan that would expand automated lottery sales. Legislators say it’s one way to raise more money for schools. 

Under a measure passed Wednesday by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, lottery tickets could be sold through automated credit or debit card machines, called “point of sale” terminals. They’re similar to those used in the self-checkout line at the grocery store. Sen. Garrett Richter (R-Naples) is behind the measure.

“It’s permissive rather than mandatory for the lottery and simply allows them to implement a point of sale retail to generate more funds for education,” Richter says.

The idea comes from a study done by the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability. Self-service lottery games are already available. The Florida lottery sells tickets through vending machines. But  Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) points out vending machine purchases can’t be made using credit cards. 

“ Currently you cannot purchase lottery tickets with a  credit card unless you purchase a certain amount of items,” Stargel says.

And Richter says that provision will stay in place under his bill. Any person purchasing a lottery ticket with a credit card at one of the point of sale terminals would be required to buy $20-worth of additional goods. Meanwhile, Sen. Gwen Margolis  (D-Miami) says if the goal is to raise money she has another plan. 

“ I just think that, you know, you put it on the internet, if you have a big prize you’re going to get a lot of people from out of state,” Margolis says.

Margolis proposed an amendment that would allow online lottery ticket sales, a move she says would increase the number of people purchasing tickets and the amount of money coming into the state. But the bill’s sponsor, Ricther, raised concerns. He says he’s worried Margolis’s amendment could weigh his bill down because it increases the places where people can buy lottery tickets and he says it could be considering a gambling expansion. 

“I know many members of this committee and some of our colleges have great concerns about a massive expansion of gaming and those are legitimate concerns. This bill, as it is without President Margolis’s amendment is a point of sale bill. It’s permissive. It simply gives the lottery the authority to sell the games it’s currently selling,” Richter says.

Margolis’s amendment died. Richter’s bill passed the committee. It heads next to the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.