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Texas-Size Jackpots

Jul 25, 2003, 1:33 pm

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Texas Lottery

The stakes are about to get higher for Texans who play the lottery. State officials are ready to join a giant jackpot lottery like Powerball where the payoff could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Some folks are seeing green, while other are predicting disaster.

Does $261 million peak your interest? Next Thursday, Lottery Executive Director Reagan Greer will tell the Lottery Commission which game Texas should join.

"We're looking at Powerball or Mega Millions because there is a precedent there of an established games with huge jack pots 300 million plus by both of them," Greer tells News 4 WOAI. Proponents say the games could generate more than $50 million a year for the state.

But this new game would have to co-exist with the current lotto. Could they both survive? Sales have declined since 1997, and just recently, Greer added a bonus ball to increase jackpots and stimulate interest.

Greer says, "The reason we're looking at it as this particular juncture is because the State's financial situation warrants an opportunity for people to step up, if they want to be in a lottery setting without creating new taxes for new revenues."

But gambling opponents say the safe bet in generating new money, is to attract consumer-based businesses.

Suzii Paynter with the group Christian Life explains: "The Toyota plant that's a great example of development by consumer economy, the expansion of gambling in Texas cannibalizes our consumer economy."

Paynter paints lotteries as a tax on the poor, saying low income Texans play the games with dreams of striking it rich. She adds that the lottery game creates more gambling addicts. Other opponents also say Lawmakers recently slashed funding that helped gambling addicts. Those funds paid for a 800 number hotline and the assistance for addicted gamblers.

Lottery officials say no one is forcing Texans to play. "This is one that is a choice, the lottery is a choice for people, if they want to play they can, they don't have to play," says Greer.

Lottery officials say 30 percent of the profits from another lottery will go towards the state's education fund. If you're wondering, since 1997 Texas Lotto has put 5.3 billion dollars into that fund. Prior to 1997, most of the lotto profits went to the state's general fund.

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