Hitting the jackpot

Lottery generates millions of dollars for state

Jill Schramm/MDN A lottery machine in an area convenience store gives players easy access to tickets.

North Dakota players have won more than $122 million in prizes and the state general fund has taken in more than $92 million since North Dakota instituted a state lottery 15 years ago.

Those figures from the latest audit as of June 2018, and the state since has had another year’s worth of lottery activity that, once released, will show an increase in those numbers.

The state general fund received $7.3 million in lottery income in the year ended June 2018, up from about $6.2 million in 2017. Lottery ticket sales last year totaled $31.3 million, compared to $27.6 million the previous year, a 13.3% increase.

While a drop in the bucket of 2017-19 biennium’s $4.3 billion general fund spending, lottery general-fund earnings estimated at $15 million would have been enough to cover the costs of the legislative assembly or paid for general fund expenses for State Parks & Recreation, according to budget figures.

From the time the lottery began in March 2004 through June 2018, North Dakota lottery retailers earned more than $18.4 million in sales and bonus commissions. The lottery contributed $3.3 million to the compulsive gambling prevention and treatment fund and $4.6 million to the Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force Grant Fund.

Jill Schramm/MDN A billboard in Minot advertises the availability of gambling addiction services, which receive funding support from the N.D. Lottery.

“Lottery money is very critical. If we didn’t have that funding from the lottery, we would not be able to function at all in the kind of capacity that we are now,” said Lisa Vig, program director for Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota’s Gamblers Choice.

As required by state law, the lottery provided $320,000 to problem gambling services in the 2017-18 fiscal year. The Department of Human Services sets aside some of the proceeds for the 211 Help Line, involvement in a national problem gambling association and the North Dakota Prevention Resource Center. The state’s contract for gambling addiction services is bid periodically and has gone to Lutheran Social Services.

“The dollars that we are awarded are used to support programming statewide under the program name of Gamblers Choice, and currently we have services primarily provided in Fargo and Grand Forks, and Bismarck and Minot, and we have roughly three and a half staff persons,” Vig said.

The program engages in individual and group counseling, support for family members, public awareness and education. It developed an online curriculum to reach rural areas of the state. LSSND uses money received from the state contract to support advertising and public awareness of addiction services and to help people afford the services.

“We probably treat anywhere between 100 to 150 people over the course of the year, and that would include gamblers and also family members,” Vig said. “So it’s really important that we have the funding from the lottery, and any form of gambling, to help make scholarships available and to help subsidize so that we can offer the service at a sliding fee scale. We don’t want a lack of money to be the reason why someone would not be able to participate.”

The money from the lottery program hasn’t kept up with inflationary costs over the past 15 years, but there hasn’t been legislative discussion about increasing the allocation to the compulsive gambling prevention and treatment fund, she said. Part of the reason may be the lottery isn’t the problem for most gamblers. Vig noted problem gamblers favor activities with immediate wins as opposed to a lottery.

Gamblers Choice doesn’t receive money from charitable gaming, but it receives some money from tribal casino gaming and has received funds from horse racing. The amount from the North Dakota Racing Commission has varied from $6,000 to $15,000 a year, and the state’s five casinos have a goal of each providing $25,000 a year, although at times, some have not been able to meet that full level of support, Vig said.

The money from tribal casinos is used for public awareness and educational materials at the casinos as well as funding assistance to help people with problems with casino-related gambling.

Other than money from gambling programs, Gamblers Choice relies on what clients can pay. It also receives some money from the state of Minnesota through its lottery for serving Minnesota residents living near the North Dakota border.

Statistics from the N.D. Lottery office show prizes won during the year ended June 30, 2018, were more than $16 million. That included prizes paid in North Dakota of $9 million and prizes paid to the Multi-State Lottery Association to fund grand/jackpot prizes. In addition, North Dakota had expired prizes of $888,485. All unclaimed prizes are retained by the lottery and are ultimately transferred to the state general fund.

The Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force in the Attorney General’s Office received $422,500.

Other expenses in the 2017-18 fiscal year included retailer commissions, $1.5 million; retailer bonuses, $35,000; and other operating expenses, $5.5 million. There are about 450 retailers.

N.D. Lottery $1

Prizes: 51 cents

State General Fund: 22 cents

Contracted Services: 10 cents

Administration/Operating: 6 cents

Retailer Commissions: 5 cents

Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force Grant Fund: 2 cents

Advertising/marketing: 2 cents

Prize Reserve Pools: 1 cent

Compulsive Gambling Prevention and Treatment Fund: 1 cent

(State also gets 2.9% income tax and federal 24% income tax)

Source: www.lottery.nd.gov