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Government, Politics & Issues

Diehl Calls For Doing Away With Missouri's 30-Year-Old Lottery

via Flickr/Jeremy Brooks

Missouri state Rep. John Diehl, who is expected to be the next speaker of the state House, says he plans to push to get rid of Missouri’s state lottery.

Diehl, a Republican from Town and Country, expects to sponsor a bill to get such a proposal on the 2016 statewide ballot.

Diehl calls the Missouri Lottery, in place since 1984, “a dishonest way to fund public education."

Still, he acknowledges that it's unclear whether Missouri voters will agree with him.

In a statement slated for release Wednesday, Diehl contends that Missouri residents have been misled by the promises that the lottery provides money for public education. He cites state figures, and recent press accounts, showing that only about a quarter of the income from lottery goes to education. The rest covers administrative costs and incentives to retailer.

For all the hype, only 4 percent of the state’s money spent for public education comes from the lottery, Diehl said.

“We aren’t being honest with Missourians when we make them believe the lottery funds education. It does not,” Diehl said. “Missourians need to revisit the issue and answer some tough questions. Is the lottery an honest way to fund education? Should the state be in the gambling business? Who does the lottery really benefit and who does it hurt?”

He pointed to reports that “suggest the (lottery) contribution to state education has fallen from $299 million to a projected $278 million per year,” while “nearly $110 million of the lottery’s budget is spent on administrative costs and incentives to retailers.”

“We need to revisit whether we should be doing this at all,” Diehl said. “We aren’t ‘playing it forward’ as the ads say. We are ‘paying it backwards.’”

Diehl’s proposal comes after Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has replaced all five members on the state Lottery Commission. The governor and Diehl are concerned about the decline in lottery income that has been forwarded to the state’s education budget.

“The governor recently said it’s time to ‘take a fresh look’ at the lottery and appointed five new lottery commissioners,” he said. “This is like shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. We don’t need to tweak the lottery. We need to look at how people are being misled about the lottery and not addressing the fundamental cost of public education and the government’s role in promoting gambling, often to those who can least afford it.”

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