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Legislature OKs shorter warnings on lottery tickets

But warding off gambling addicts could still cost education millions.

Warning labels on Florida Lottery tickets won the support of the House Friday, and the legislation now heads to the Governor’s desk.

The bill (HB 629) seeks to inform individuals, particularly those prone to gambling problems, that playing the Lottery feeds the same appetites for gambling.

But the close relationship between scratch-offs and education funding has drawn attention.

“The warnings will provide effective notice for the ticket buyer to make a more informed decision,” said Rep. Will Robinson, a Bradenton Republican.

Earlier this year, Robinson filed a more robust bill seeking new regulations on electronic sales of tickets. But the Senate cleared out all of that language.

Senators also approved much shorter warning labels on the bill.

The House originally approved the bill with a lengthy label reading: “WARNING: PLAYING A LOTTERY GAME CONSTITUTES GAMBLING AND MAY LEAD TO ADDICTION AND/OR COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOR. THE CHANCES OF WINNING A BIG PRIZE ARE VERY LOW.”

Revenue estimators predicted the longer labels would result in a $64 million loss for the Florida Lottery in the first full year, and said such losses could increase over time.

Sen. Rob Bradley offered an amendment on the Senate floor Wednesday changing the language. The bill now calls for warnings to say either “WARNING: LOTTERY GAMES MAY BE ADDICTIVE” or simply “PLAY RESPONSIBLY.”

“Frankly, as a shorter warning was approved, that significantly mitigates things on the education funding side,” Robinson said.

No revenue estimates based on the shorter statements have been estimated. In addition to appearing on the tickets, the language will also appear in marketing material for the lottery.

Changes cost the legislation some House support for the bill, but not much. The chamber on Friday passed the amended bill through a 98-8 vote. In both the House and Senate, all no votes came from Democratic members.

Bradley argued in the Senate that education funding in the state should not rely on money from gambling addicts. But the bill still needs to make it through Gov. Ron DeSantis. Former Gov. Rick Scott vetoed similar legislation in 2017.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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