Other Voices

Nobody makes us play the lottery

Texas Lottery player marks his numbers at a convenience store in Austin.
Texas Lottery player marks his numbers at a convenience store in Austin. AP

The issue of whether or not the state should have a lottery (see Dec. 2 editorial, “Report says $1.2 billion a lot of $$”) is a policy decision determined by the Texas Legislature and the people of Texas.

In 1991, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment authorizing a state lottery. It is the responsibility of the Texas Lottery Commission to generate revenue for the state while incorporating the highest standards of security and integrity.

As the commission’s chairman, I proudly oversee the lottery as it continually sets sales and revenue records, contributing more than $1 billion annually to the Foundation School Fund.

The Foundation School Fund, administered by the Texas Education Agency, helps pay for the operational needs and special program services for Texas school districts, including teacher salaries, utilities, equipment, bilingual education, special education, gifted and talented education, and career and technical education.

Revenue from Texans enjoying lottery games has contributed a total of $17 billion to education since the beginning.

Put into perspective, $1 billion can fund the salaries of approximately 20,000 teachers, or provide after-school programs for 500,000 children, or purchase 29 million 5th grade digital textbooks or buy 13,000 school buses.

In 2009, the Legislature authorized veteran-themed scratch-off games with resulting sales of $40 million for the Fund for Veterans’ Assistance, benefitting Texas veterans and their families.

In a state with 1.7 million veterans, these programs provide them with financial assistance, transportation services, post-traumatic stress disorder counseling and housing assistance.

I am extremely proud of the Texas Lottery’s commitment to generate revenue for these important causes. The agency continues to responsibly fulfill its mission with the highest standards of excellence and integrity.

Despite these accomplishments, the commission is respectful and mindful of those Texans who are not in favor of gaming.

However, some individuals believe that there is a correlation between lottery play and income and that less income equates to disproportionate play.

Additionally, there are critics with self-serving agendas who provide false information to the public.

Lottery players have the intelligence and judgment to make good choices about spending their entertainment dollars, whether on Netflix, a Friday night football game or lottery scratch-off games.

The Legislature requires the TLC to commission a “know-your-players” demographic study conducted by an independent firm.

For several years, the study has been done by the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy. It examines the income, age, sex, race, education and frequency of play by players, and the TLC reports the results to the governor and Legislature.

I am always gratified by the results of these annual studies, which reaffirm my belief that Texans are smart players and use good judgment — they slow down or stop when times are tough and play when they can afford it in good times.

We respect our players. We recognize our responsibility in generating revenue for the state, and we will continue to set new standards of industry excellence while providing games that our discerning players enjoy.

No one ever made any Texans play who didn’t want to play.

J. Winston Krause is chair of the Texas Lottery Commission.