Commentary: Powerball won't increase education spending

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

Powerball has come to Florida, and judging from the first day's ticket sales – an impressive $1.5 million – a lot of Floridians are happy that it is here. Just as was promised 22 years ago when voters approved a constitutional amendment for the Lottery, state officials again are promising that Powerball will generate "millions of additional new dollars for education." Floridians should not be deceived. Just as before, "additional dollars" doesn't mean an increase in spending on education.

Most residents – including many who voted for the Lottery – now believe that the state's more-money-for-education campaign in 1986 was a bait-and-switch ruse. That's because Lottery dollars were used to replace general-revenue education dollars, not add to spending as a means of improving the overall quality of education in the state. As a result, when residents consider the dismal state of education in Florida – our state consistently rates among the worst in per-capital spending in the country – many of them feel betrayed.

Of course, none of this prevented Lottery officials from adding Powerball to Florida's increasing reliance on gaming to support state operations. Lottery Director Leo DiBenigno, who worried two years ago that Powerball could "cannibalize" other state Lotto games, said Monday that cannibalization still could happen, but there is a good chance that any losses in other games would be made up by increased revenues from Powerball.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.