Mar 26, 2008, 12:12 pm
Four years ago today, North Dakota launched it's own lottery.
At the time only Powerball was available for purchase in the state. Since then, three new games have been added.
Each one of the North Dakota Lottery's games are run by the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), which is famous for creating the first nation-wide multi-state lottery game, Powerball (formerly Lotto America). The North Dakota Lottery does not conduct any of the drawings itself.
It's estimated by June 13th of this year, the lottery will net a profit of $28 million, which is distributed to a number of programs throughout the state.
"The lottery's consumer product is a dream," said Chuck Keller, Director of the N.D. Lottery.
So far more than five million people have won playing the lottery, but regardless if their ticket is a winner or not, they already made a difference.
A percentage of every dollar goes to eight different areas.
The Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Taskforce is one of those eight areas. $400,000 goes to help North Dakota law enforcement fight the war on drugs.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said, "It has helped enormously because we have seen a dwindling of the federal participation." The state used to get $2.4 million through the Federal Burn Grant Program.
Stenehjem said the money was used to set up the ten drug taskforce agencies throughout the state.
However, as the years have passed, the amount of federal participation in the Drug Taskforce has dropped to $175,000.
"Certainly what is going on in Mexico and the drug trafficking we are seeing up from there means they need to be a full participant on the federal level in the fight against narcotics," Stenehjem said.
Lottery profits are also helping fight another kind of addiction — gambling. A portion of each ticket sold goes to fund treatment for gamblers.
By the end of June, more than $1 million will have been set aside for the cause.
Don Wright, Assistant Director of the N.D. Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, explained, "We've been seeing an increase over the years in need but I am not so certain that we can attribute it necessarily to the lottery."
Wright says the recovering gamblers he talks to claim casinos to be more of a factor for their problem.
Gamblers consider the lottery to be nothing more than a trigger, according to Wright.
"A trigger for a problem gambler would be similar to a trigger for someone who is an alcoholic," Wright explained. "Walking into a bar or being in a situation where there is alcohol being served or you know being tempted in that manner."
Helping those suffering with a gambling addiction or fighting the drug problem in the state are just two ways the lottery has made a difference.
Each dollar spent on a lottery ticket is broken up into eight areas:
What is impossible to measure is the gift of big, lofty dreams that a Powerball jackpot can conjure.