Missouri Lottery marks 25 years of sales

The Missouri Lottery marked 25 years of ticket sales Tuesday with officials from the lottery and the state’s public education system touting its benefits at a ceremony at the Capitol.

Missouri Lottery Executive Director May Scheve Reardon presented state education leaders with a ceremonial check for $3.8 billion, the amount the lottery has generated for public education since its inception.

The legislature created the Missouri Lottery in 1985, seven months after Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing it to do so. The first lottery tickets were sold on Jan. 20, 1986. Since then, the lottery has had more than $13 billion in sales.

Voters approved another constitutional amendment in 1992, earmarking lottery money for public education.

The law governing the lottery requires at least 45 percent of its revenues to be used for prizes. According to the Missouri Lottery, about 63 cents of each dollar of lottery revenue goes to prizes and about 27 cents goes to public schools and higher education.

Gov. Jay Nixon cut funding for college scholarships and public school busing this year after state revenue projections dipped. But state higher education commissioner David Russell said Tuesday that funding cuts for education would have been worse were it not for the lottery.

The lottery generated about $255 million for education last year — down about $4 million from the 2009 fiscal year.

“Good programs have often had to be discontinued in difficult economic times,” Russell said. “It’s a real pleasure to see that the Missouri Lottery has been so successful.”

Gary Gonder, the lottery’s chief operating officer, said he doesn’t think the Legislature will try to modify the prize formula to increase the amount of revenue available for education, even though the state faces a budget shortfall of about $500 million in the coming fiscal year.

“A couple of legislatures in other states, California and Texas, have tried that,” he said. “It failed because any time you take money away from the game, you make a product that’s inferior and then sales go away.”

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