When the Virginia lottery was being sold to us many years back, one of the big selling points was that the proceeds would go to education. That sounded very nice at the time. But the reality here and in other states has been far below the promises as this article in the Christian Science Monitor describes.

For one thing, many states didn’t use lottery money to supplement but to replace schools funds. In some cases, such as in Ohio, the amount of spending on schools actually dropped despite contributions from the lottery.

The study demonstrated that, after Ohio’s 1974 promise to devote all lottery winnings to public schools, state spending on education dropped from 42 percent of its total budget in 1973 to 29 percent in 1994.

Another problem is that the lottery revenues haven’t been the huge windfalls the supporters promised. During the current recession, spending on lottery tickets has declined while the amount states spent on promoting those games has increased. In addition, the article notes that the administration of lottery programs in many states is not very efficient, resulting in relatively little money making it to the schools.

The bottom line is that gambling is a poor funding source for schools, not to mention the poor example it sets for the kids the lotteries are supposed to be helping.