Thirty years after the Washington State Lottery was created, there are still plenty of misconceptions on where the money goes.
In the 1970's, there were several attempts by the Legislature to create a state lottery that would have dedicated the revenues for education. A state lottery was finally authorized in 1982.
However, because the Legislature was dealing with a projected budget deficit that year, lawmakers elected to have lottery revenues go into the state's general fund. While education is the general fund's main expense, it's also used to pay for higher education, prisons, health care, and many other state services.
In 2000, voters approved a measure to direct lottery dollars specifically towards education. From 2004-09, lottery proceeds were used to renovate and remodel schools. In 2010, the Legislature re-directed lottery proceeds to the Opportunity Pathways Account, which supports access grants, work study awards, merit scholarships, and early learning programs.
Below is a chart that shows where lottery dollars went last year. Nearly 60% of the budget goes to pay prizes to the winners. After all, it wouldn't be much of a lottery if there isn't anything to win.
After prizes are paid out and other costs are accounted for, the lottery generates about $122 million for education. By comparison, state spending on K-12 and higher education is about $8 billion per year.
So, while lottery proceeds are an important part of education funding, they're only a small piece of the overall funding picture.
Washington Lottery Fun Facts:
- The Washington State Lottery sold its first ticket in 1982.
- Since then, it has paid almost $6.5 billion in prizes.
In fiscal year 2012, over 28 million winning tickets were issued ranging from $1 to $11 million.
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