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Florida Lawmakers Push For Fewer Scratch Off Games

scratch off lottery tickets
Jason Meredith

While the billion dollar Powerball jackpot is on most people’s minds, Florida lawmakers are turning their attention to the Florida lottery.

The number of lottery tickets available for sale has skyrocketed over the years. That’s according to Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami).

"The mission of the Florida lottery is to maximize revenues in a manner consistent with the dignity of the state and the welfare of its citizens.  Yet, in recent years it seems the Florida lottery has let these values fall by the way side in the sole interest of maximizing profits,” Artiles says.

Currently, the lottery offers about 75 different scratch off games and the price for some of the tickets reaches $25.  Artiles says lottery scratch off games make up a huge portion of the gambling that goes on the in the state.

“We have seen the largest expansion of gambling through out the Florida lottery in recent years. Scratch offs, particularly, compromise 60 percent of the Florida lottery’s revenue,” Artiles says.

Artiles wants to put a cap on the number of scratch off games that can be offered at one time. He’s proposing a 20 game limit, with a maximum price of $5 per game.  It’s a move Rep. Jimmy Smith (R-Inverness) supports. He says he knows from personal experience, all too often it’s the state’s low income residents who purchase lottery tickets. 

“My father is on social security income and he lines up constantly to get scratch off tickets and this is hopefully going to discourage the state from taking advantage of people like my father,” Smith says.

Studies show poorer individuals generally spend a larger percent of their income on lottery purchases compared to people who make more money. Artiles claims that’s not accidental. He says evidence indicates the state is targeting shoppers in low income neighborhoods.

“Florida lottery advertising spending increases in low income areas. In Miami Dade alone there’s almost a perfect statistical correlation between the Florida advertising spending and the most poorly dense areas—97 percent" Artiles says.

But lottery ticket sales are used to help fund education in Florida, and some question how the change might impact the state’s revenue. The states economists estimate the change could result in a reduction of  $2-to-3 million. But Artiles questions how that number was calculated.

“How do you go from 76 to 20 and lose so much revenue? So we will be working to try to get the real numbers. I believe these are inflated and these are also projections as to increased scratch off games in the future,” Artiles says.

Meanwhile, other lawmakers are looking at a plan they say would bolster education money coming in from the lottery. Sen. Garrett Richter (R-Naples) is teaming up with Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Keylargo) to pass a bill that would let people buy their lottery tickets at the pump. And the Senate version of the bill is ready to head to the floor. And another pair of lawmakers is pushing for a new lottery game – one that would help provide funds for cancer screening for women.