In the final week of the legislative session, a bill on the Florida Lottery could cut education funding drastically if it passes the Senate.
HB 629 from state Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, who sits on the Gaming Control Subcommittee, would prohibit the use of personal electronic devices to play, store, redeem, sell, or purchase lottery tickets or games. The bill has been added to the Senate agenda for a floor vote on Wednesday.
Robinson told Florida Politics earlier this year that he brought out the proposal to ensure Lottery tickets were sold at retailers and not online. Robinson said he was worried about “fraudulent websites” selling tickets and called for banning the purchase of Lottery tickets through smartphones.
“Once you start allowing mobile devices, you are expanding the scope of the lottery,” he told Florida Politics.
Opponents of the bill say, if the legislation is approved, the bill will slash education funding with both K-12 funding and Bright Futures scholarship on the chopping block.
According to the Revenue Estimating Conference, which calculated the fiscal impact, the bill would reduce the Florida Lottery’s support of the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund by up to $235 million a year.
In 2017, then Gov. Rick Scott veoted a much shorter version of a lottery warning label bill because it would have impacted education funding. The 2017 bill would have added short messages to lottery products such as “WARNING: GAMBLING CAN BE ADDICTIVE.”
The current bill would add lengthier warning label to lottery tickets. Florida would be the only state that has such a warning on its lottery tickets. If this bill passes, warning labels would be added to all lottery tickets that say: “WARNING: PLAYING A LOTTERY GAME CONSTITUTES GAMBLING AND MAY LEAD TO ADDICTION AND/OR COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOR. THE CHANCES OF WINNING A BIG PRIZE ARE VERY LOW.”
Portions of every Florida Lottery ticket sale gets transferred to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund (EETF)–meaning the stakes are high for education in the Sunshine State. State officials estimate that if only 7 percent of lottery players stop playing, lottery sales will be reduced by $500 million, leading to a drop of $126.5 million in education funding, ensuring around 5,000 Bright Futures scholarships in Florida would be lost to high school graduates. Education advocates across the state are expected to go all out this week to protect those funds.
Robinson’s bill overwhelmingly cleared the House on a 113-2 vote. The bill is being backed in the state Senate by Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville.
Contact Ed at Ed.Dean@FloridaDaily.com.