Should we expand gambling in Georgia to bolster HOPE?

In talking to parents of young children, I find many fear that the HOPE Scholarship will dwindle away to pennies by the time their kids reach college age.

The changes to HOPE by Gov. Nathan Deal and the Legislature link the merit scholarship to available lottery funds, so the amount  will now vary year to year. It will likely never pay 100 percent of tuition again, given the growing demand on lottery proceeds.

Did you see the AJC interview with the father of HOPE,former Gov. Zell Miller? In a rare press interview, an ailing Miller told my colleague Jim Galloway, “I don’t think they had any other choice. We knew back in the ‘90s that there would be adjustments. This came as no surprise.”

Galloway reports that Miller is not alarmed at the decision by state lottery officials to approve the sale of tickets through the Internet.

“I’m okay with that. In fact, we wrote the lottery law so you could do that,” he said. But as for that plan to create a casino with machines operated by the Georgia Lottery Corporation, Miller said he’ll let others decide that.

Now, a new poll by by SurveyUSA for 11Alive news showed 56 percent of likely voters said they would support casino-style video lottery terminals to raise money for HOPE. The TV station reports that support for the casino machines reaches across almost every demographic; even voters who identify themselves as “conservative” and “evangelical” approve.

I don’t share the fears of some that gambling will lead Georgia into depravity. (We already have legalized gambling with the lottery.)

That’s probably because I grew up in New Jersey where Atlanta City is a gambling mecca with a large appeal to retirees in the region who come by the busloads for the slot machines, dinner and a show.

I am not a gambler but have seen friends struggle with its addictive nature. I am not sure we can create public policy that avoids feeding all bad habits. (Witness the uproar in New York, which is about to vote on the big soda ban sought by Mayor Bloomberg to combat obesity.)

What do you think? Are we setting down the wrong path with casino machines even for a good cause, expanded higher ed options?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

58 comments Add your comment

Baker

July 24th, 2012
10:16 am

No!

1) Expanding the lotto bails out politicians from actually devoting more tax dollars to education and being honest about the situation.
and 2) only contributes to the further skyrocketing of tuition costs as there is absolutely no downward pressure on prices.

Married with (School) Children

July 24th, 2012
10:19 am

The Lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math.

catlady

July 24th, 2012
10:25 am

I’m against it, too, for the reasons cited by Baker. In addition, I think gamblers have enough outlets for their pastime. I don’t think we need even more here in Georgia. Too many parents use their $20 or more weekly to buy tickets instead of school supplies!

Think, too, about the message a lottery send: If you are “lucky” you can strike it rich. Not that if you work hard, you will do well. Not if you stay in school, you will do well. Any idiot can buy a lottery ticket (and many do)!

Let folks keep their money to feed their families. Those who don’t struggle to do so can go to Cherokee or other places and play.

Current HS Teacher

July 24th, 2012
10:27 am

Gambling should not be the source of funding for our public education system.

HOPE wasn’t meant to provide a free college education for every child in Georgia.

Citizen tax-payers need to act to properly fund education at state and local levels without resort to wishful thinking such as counting on the lottery proceeds.

Step one would be to boot out all incumbents and get a new set of elected representives at every level of public office.

The Anti-Gnostic

July 24th, 2012
10:28 am

They’ll spend all that money too.

Education prices will reflect rational, sustainable supply and demand only when the costs are borne directly by education consumers. Iron law.

Dunwoody Mom

July 24th, 2012
10:29 am

They have video-gambling in Pennsylvania – one is in even located in a horse-race facility. It’s clean, safe, high-class with no unsavory characters roaming around. I have no problem with these type of facilities here in Georgia. I don’t think the crime rate in PA is in any worse than here in GA. I remember when people thought the lottery would bring down the wrath of God and all sorts of other horrible things when the lottery has actually been a God-send to many, many families who would not have been able to afford college for their children. I will vote Yes.

Ernest

July 24th, 2012
10:36 am

Not surprisingly, I agree with Dunwoody Mom! I made a suggestion to our local legislatures about considering turning the Doraville GM plant into a ‘Doraville Downs’. It could be a major entertainment complex featuring horse racing. It could also stimulate job growth as DeKalb has fallen behind neighboring counties with respect to entertainment venues. Given the access to the interstate and MARTA, it could be a major jobs producer.

Howard Finkelstein

July 24th, 2012
10:37 am

Gambling for Hope? I hope not.

Ernest

July 24th, 2012
10:37 am

Meant to say I made a suggestion to our local legislative team…. :(

Jefferson

July 24th, 2012
10:37 am

Tax and regulate would be the only state functions, let the businessmen build, run and compete.

If state run, why not brothels ?

Robert

July 24th, 2012
10:38 am

As I struggle with how I am going to pay my insurance, electricity, water, and two credir card bills….including one through my job….as a direct result of the illegal slots in every local convenience store in my community…….with cash payouts…..I have to really say NO.

Robert

July 24th, 2012
10:41 am

Correction: As a direct result of my having a problem and having easy access to the slots.

Student Advocate

July 24th, 2012
10:48 am

We need to acknowledge that college isn’t for every student. Trying to put every HS grad into a 4 year college has frittered away a lot of hope dollars. A lot of people are tactile learners and may succeed best when working with their hands or otherwise physical job. Some industries need skilled tradesmen, many decent paying honorable jobs are just on the other side of a trade school. I don’t think video lottery is the answer to skyrocketing costs, but a pilot program for the Atlanta Airport where people are stuck for hours may be a good place to start.

Caroline

July 24th, 2012
11:03 am

I will vote yes, the education system needs all the money it can get. As for as the casino taking all the people money, I could care less, because PEOPLE should be able to do what they please with THEIR MONEY!!!!!!!! I don’t believe in worrying about other people problems I have enough of my own.

td

July 24th, 2012
11:09 am

The Georgia lottery just reported record profits last year and there is not enough money. The problem is the HOPE because the university system is raising tuition faster because they know the money is there and that the citizens want to keep their entitlement program.

NONPC

July 24th, 2012
11:18 am

After seeing what HOPE has done to tuition increases in GA, I am reluctant to encourage those who can least afford it to gamble their hard earned money in casinos in order to push up the cost of tuition. The State board of Regents jacks up tuition and fees while the GA Legislature cuts University funding…. all because of HOPE.

Lets look at this another way: Suppose casinos were WILDLY successful and brought in twice as much money for HOPE. In no time at all, the state cuts funding by the very amount that HOPE brings in, and every college and university in the state will increases their tuition. Then, if your child loses HOPE for some reason, it will cost twice as much to get through college. For those taking the most technically difficult college courses and majors, increased HOPE funding leading to increased tuition puts their entire college at risk. Neither the State Legislature nor the University System can be trusted with an increased pot of HOPE money. 20 years ago, I would never have imagined this outcome. All of this comes at the expense of people who shouldn’t be gambling in the first place.

Sam the Sham

July 24th, 2012
11:29 am

Build actual Vegas style casinos, not “video lottery” machine casinos and I am a yes. We are adults and should be able to spend our hard earned money the way WE see fit. It should not be the business of the government or the church how I spend my already-taxed income.

AlreadySheared

July 24th, 2012
11:39 am

Yes, or no. And that’s fine.

Yes, Ga should have casino gambling because it’s fun and people like to do it. It doesn’t have to be for Hope. But it’s ok with me if that’s where the taxes go.

my2cents

July 24th, 2012
11:40 am

We should have horse racing with on-track betting only – an actual industry with a variety of service jobs, fresh air and away from keyboards and monitors. Remember when Zell Miller promised?

catlady

July 24th, 2012
11:41 am

Caroline, while I agree wholeheartedly that folks should use their own money their own way, unfortunately many play the lottery and expect the taxpayers to pay for their food, school supplies, housing, cell phones, etc.

I know many people who play the lottery. So many would be better served spending that dollar or whatever it costs on food for their families. I know few families for whom the money is just piffle money. Holding on to the edge of existence, going to food banks, getting help paying the power bill, but don’t get in their way on Friday (or the first of the month) when they are headed to the store to get tickets!

Our legislators were voted in to address and solve the needs of the state. So far….not only not so much, but even less than that. First, do no harm? Lost out on that one, too.

my2cents

July 24th, 2012
11:45 am

Enter your comments here

Bob

July 24th, 2012
11:50 am

Start charging sales tax on Internet sales. Look at all the revenue the state and local systems are losing to Internet sales. Even with sales tax it will still be cheaper to buy products online. As far as gambling goes, I enjoy Biloxi and Atlantic City but I think they should turn Jekyll into a gambling resort destination with real slot machines, poker, and blackjack. At least those games have better odds than the lottery.

William Casey

July 24th, 2012
11:53 am

Lots of good arguments here. I tend to be libertarian about gambling (”it’s their money”) but can see how increasing the HOPE pot would simply lead to further increases in college costs and less funding from taxes. IMHO, neither of those things are good. NONPC is right about the Lesgislature and the University System.

My thoughts on HOPE:

1. Make the first year a reimbursement program. If student actually makes the grades in college, HOPE reimburses him/her. If not, they have partied on their own (or their parents’) dime. This would save a ton of money.

2. Assign HOPE money on a sliding scale according to major studied. HOPE wasn’t designed to help students “find themselves.”

3. Establish a hard and fast rule as to what % of lottery income must go to HOPE. There’s been some funny business here.

4. Establish a hard and fast rule as to how much per pupil the state must spend from non-HOPE sources.

There’s more but I’d only vote for expanded gambling if these actions were taken first.

Ben

July 24th, 2012
12:04 pm

Legalize all forms of gambling.

yuzeyurbrane

July 24th, 2012
12:13 pm

The main thing is the state must stop its draconian education budget cuts and restore them to their prior (but still inadequate levels). Then it must commit to putting more resources into education so as Georgia can attract 21st Century industries with a well-educated populace. That would allow tuition increases to stop and help not only those students on HOPE but other students as well. After all, it is called “public” education. 50 years ago my sister attended UGA for less than $200 per year tuition. Administer HOPE honestly and stop playing with the Lottery dollars to divert funds from HOPE, as has happened all too frequently. Then and only then examine the whole topic of increasing Lottery revenues to increase HOPE funding.

Hillbilly D

July 24th, 2012
12:16 pm

Baker @ 10:16 has a pretty good point.

I’m not for mixing government and business. If you want to have gambling, that’s a separate issue. If you do, tax it and regulate it but the government shouldn’t be running it, in my opinion.

It’s sort of ironic that way back when, the Atlanta Constitution used to rail against “people playing the bug”, on a regular basis. I guess it all depends on who is controlling the money.

ScienceTeacher671

July 24th, 2012
12:21 pm

William Casey has already made my points. I might also put a cap on tuition increases.

Jefferson

July 24th, 2012
12:23 pm

The lottery corp skimms too much from the players, the jackpots should be bigger. A state run deal would be skimming too much but if it makes Biloxi offer better deals, good — I’ll go to MS.

another comment

July 24th, 2012
12:23 pm

I grew up in a State where Sunday sales of beer in the grocery store after noon have always been legal. The drinking age was 18 always, until the horrible intrusion of the Federal Government to blackmale the states with highway funds, to raise the drinking age to 21. (Perhaps now that the SOCTUS has ruled that the Federal Government can’t blackmail the goverment on receiving Medicaid funds if they do not do as they say. Even though I am a believer that we should have just gone Medicare plus for all a single payer system). I do hope that someone will challenge the that the Federal Govenment under Reagan effectively blackmailed all states to increase the drinking age to 21. For the most part the 55 speed limit has gradually moved back up to 70, what about lowering the drinking age. All it has done is created binge drinking among our teens and early 20 year olds. Those who can vote, and serve our county. Our cash strapped cities and counties favorite arrest is MIP. Putting big black marks on our youth records, $1,500 -2,500 attorney fees to get a kid in diversion, in hope of expunsion to keep eligibility for scholarships. Local bail and fines of $400-1500. Requirements for treatment that stay on a medical record forever, even if the lawyer gets the rest expunged. Then there is the raiding of private homes and arresting the 18-21 year olds for underage drinking and charging the parents with furnishing the booze to minors. The State I grew up in still doesn’t do this. My nephews openly drinking and have friends over at my siblings houses, that the 22 year old who just graduated from the IVY league bought. Of course this State knows if they want to drinking they just have to make a short drive over a bridge to a country that has always had a 19 drinking age.

I also grew up with Pony racing. For those unfamiliar those are races with a horse pulling a driver in a cart. We really don’t need Kentucky Derby style, raising. The ponies are just as fun. The track in Alabama failed because they went too high up. Pony ( they are horses) is just as fun, were at the county owned fair ground.

Now that Canada has full casino’s which you can enter and drink at 19. NY open up first casiones on Indian land, so they gave the Seneca Indians ( related to the Cherokee’s ) a building in Niagra Falls, NY.. When that did not bring crime or problems they have now opened slots at the County owned Fair ground. My mother and the senior citizens center is happy since now they have about a 10 minute ride, that they can drive themselves to, vs renting a bus to go to either the Canadian or NY side of the falls.

My 86 year old mother never buys a lotter ticket, they are not entertainment. But a day at the casino playing the slots with a $20-50 that she has squirled away as her play money, is a day of entertainment with her Senior Citizen friends.

I feel we need to go with a full fledged Casino. Since, I would rather play blackjack live with a dealer. At least I get to make the decisions. I have never lost more than $20 a day. That is the most I will go in with. I sat next to several Professional Baseball players at the Blackjack table, they bet alot more than I at this San Juan Casino.

Georgia needs to wake up not everyone is these multiple name right wing bloggers.

Ernest

July 24th, 2012
12:31 pm

I also like William Casey’s idea of an algorithm to help with the process. QBE was supposed to be reviewed and adjusted regularly however those funding levels have remained fixed since that program was implemented.

I found your #2 especially interesting. One could allocate more for STEM students along with teachers, for example. Business might consider GA as a relocation destination if they see a concerted effort in encouraging certain majors

Dunwoody Mom

July 24th, 2012
12:51 pm

Jim Galloway reports that the state’s share of Georgia school costs is down to 38% – and yet Deal and other politicians continue to support the Charter School initiative which will take more $$$ from the school districts. So, if you have a $1,000 to spend head to the “Give Kids Hope” fundraiser. Here’s a though Governor Deal, why don’t you and your compadres donate that $1,000 per person to your local school districts? I know the students and teachers would appreciate it.

http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2012/07/24/your-morning-jolt-states-share-of-georgia-school-costs-down-to-38-percent/?cxntfid=blogs_political_insider_jim_galloway

Old timer

July 24th, 2012
1:03 pm

Bob, no to the Jekyll. I love it just like it is…..it is a wonderful family destination. I really do not think gambling is the best solution.

Tabitha

July 24th, 2012
1:21 pm

The problem is not the lottery, the problem is out of control spending growth by the Chancellors at the UGA system. If tuition for the past ten years had matched inflations, we the lottery could fund Hope at 100% no problem. If the universties would get their costs undercontrol, we would not be having this discussion.

Pride and Joy

July 24th, 2012
1:25 pm

More gambling to support HOPE attempts to solve the right problem with the wrong remedy.
The right problem to solve is escalating college expenses. We need to crack down on colleges spending foolishly on luxuries and sports — like WHY should GA STATE have a football program. WHY? GA Tech football is a stone’s throw away and Athens is two hours — more football? Ridiculous.
Keep college costs down instead of adding more gambling. Attack the right problem directly.

economist correction

July 24th, 2012
1:27 pm

The statistics around problem gambling is pretty clear in areas that have opened up casino type gambling. The cost benefit analysis shifts the costs pretty heavily onto the public- unemployment, child support and displaced families, increased incidents of crime and a pretty scary suicide rate. These changes came in after the implementation of casino style gambling.
The hardest hit are the families were those in the lower ses- the ones that are most affected by poor schools and have the hardest to educate/keep in school population. It would be a cruel twist if by opening up gambling to allow more access/affordability to college would ultimately hurt the population of young children/students who have the least chance of making it into college.

Emphatically voting against any casino type gambling- the addiction rate is pretty significant for young teenagers ( males). Short term pay off with a long term cost to society.
Anyone here think the idea of living ( not just being a tourist) in an Atlantic City neighborhood sounds like a good time?

Dunwoody Mom

July 24th, 2012
1:33 pm

Teenagers would not be allowed in these casinos.

economist correction

July 24th, 2012
2:37 pm

Teenagers are also not allowed to buy cigarettes, get into bars, and do alot of things that they actually do end up doing. If society sanctions an activity it doesn’t take it long for it to be accept across almost all levels of society- trickle down. Policing doesn’t come free.
Dice games and card games/ gambling are already a problem in some high schools. Ramping the acceptance around gambling will only increase the likelihood of teenagers gambling.
Gambling should not be on the table as a funding prospect especially as it hurts the hardest hit of populations disproportionally– the children

CCMST

July 24th, 2012
4:37 pm

In the last few years, with all the budget problems, I have seen people comment that the fed/state/district/school need to do what people do when hey don’t have enough money: cut back. My alternate thought on that is FIND ANOTHER REVENUE SOURCE. I need more money in household? We try to do something extra to earn it in addition to cutting back. With that in mind, I do think we should have casinos and horse racing with parimutuel betting – not only could revenue be generated for education, it would also bring jobs (more jobs than video poker in a convenience store).

That being said, I don’t think the money should necessarily go to HOPE. K-12 is in a world of hurt, and if that doesn’t get some relief soon, there won’t be any need for HOPE (yeah, that was a bit of hyperbole used for effect – don’t waste your breathe, naysayers).

I like William Casey’s thoughts on restructuring HOPE, and I agree with Baker and HillybillyD about it not being government run – let it be privately run, and tax it. Works just fine in states like NY, CA, & MA. I like the idea of destination casinos – resort-like, as opposed to just video slots in various locales. As far as teenagers and gamblers…well. we can’t be everybody’s mommy and daddy, now, can we…I would think traditional Republicans would be for it as a move against a nanny-state.

Atlanta Mom

July 24th, 2012
5:04 pm

Seems to me that people who gamble via the lottery, are the same people who will gamble via casino machine. How much increase are the politicians predicting? If I were a betting woman, I’d guess much less than they expect.

NTLB

July 24th, 2012
6:00 pm

N O–they need to figure it out and work with what they have now. I am tired of the increases in taxes, increases in tuition, etc., and ending up in square one each time.

Archie

July 24th, 2012
9:15 pm

“There is a sucker born every minute!” -P.T. Barnum

bootney farnsworth

July 24th, 2012
9:21 pm

fine with me. just build in laws mandating the monies can only go to classroom / instructional related issues -no Atlanta Center, no Southeastern Sustainability, no Diversity, ect – just educational support.

and include serious legal penalties for schools who don’t. heavy fines, jail time, loss of accreditation

bootney farnsworth

July 24th, 2012
9:26 pm

@ William

I’m a bit reluctant to go total reimbursement the first year – start up costs are huge with $300 textbooks and football fees to pay.

I would add that HOPE only be accessible in the freshmen and sophomore years at 2 year schools. just like its not there for kids to find themselves, its not there so they can move out of the house

mgdawg

July 24th, 2012
10:19 pm

I used hope, had it 3 out of 4 years of my bachelors, and it saved me a lot of money. However, I don’t think the lottery should be expanded. The lottery preys on so many low income people and makes the poor poorer. From what I have heard the lottery money is being split more ways now is one of the bigger problems, so my solution is don’t split the money so much and devote more to HOPE.

William Casey

July 25th, 2012
12:31 am

@bootney: I worry about shutting worthy people out but haven’t come up with a way to prevent the “I’ll party for a year on HOPE” mentality of so many “students” I taught (or tried to teach) at Chattahoochee and Northview.

JW

July 25th, 2012
2:03 am

I thought HOPE was designed to give kids from families that were struggling a chance to go to college. Not so much. There needs to be real financial need factored into whatever formula is used to grant HOPE money to college students. Period. If there are too many students getting it and not enough money to go around, then tighten up who is eligible based on academic merit AND financial need.

alch

July 25th, 2012
2:30 pm

Award HOPE on a sliding scale of major???? …not a sliding scale of INCOME???? Wow, so transparent!!

Frankie

July 25th, 2012
2:48 pm

next thing you know they will want to legalize prostitution to help pay for education…

Frankie

July 25th, 2012
2:50 pm

How about increase the tax bite off the winnings of the exiting lottery…they are just going to blow it anyway…

Daniel

July 25th, 2012
4:04 pm

go to Cherokee NC and look at all the Ga License Plates…Georgians are already gambling….giving their money away in NC or Biloxi or Tunica…..Build casinos and keep the money in GA!