World Lottery Association president urges veto of warning labels

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Rebecca Paul Hargrove fears warnings will set dangerous national precedent.

Florida’s first lottery secretary called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto legislation placing warning labels on tickets.

Rebecca Paul Hargrove, now president of the World Lottery Association, said Florida could set an unfortunate precedent. Should the bill (HB 629) become law, it could hurt lottery-funded programs nationwide.

“The instant scratch-off games have been around for over 45 years, and sales of these games continue to grow every year,” Hargrove wrote in a letter to DeSantis, “but more importantly the sales of these games continue to grow funding for good causes every year.”

Hargrove said $50 billion worth of lottery tickets get sold each year nationwide. That raises about $10 billion to support various programs benefiting the public.

In Florida, she notes, the Lottery provides funding for public education. Since the program’s launch in 1988, it generated some $35 billion for schools. That includes financing 800,000 Bright Futures scholarships.

Hargrove feels partial to the program in the Sunshine State. In 1987, then-Gov. Bob Martinez tapped her to launch the Florida Lottery, which set first-year records.

She’s also run lottery programs in Illinois and Georgia and currently serves as president and CEO of the Tennessee Education Lottery. The World Lottery Association tapped her to lead the international group during a gathering in Argentina in November.

“During my Lottery career, my focus has been on how best to continue growing the much-needed funding for good causes while doing so with integrity,” Hargrove writes.

“I am not aware of any North American Lottery that is required to print a warning message on the front of the instant scratch-off games ticket that is required to occupy 10 percent of the ticket real estate, similar to HB 629.”

The Legislature passed the bill based on concerns about gambling addiction. Former Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a similar bill in 2017.

State revenue estimators at one point figured the legislation could result in a $64 million loss for the Lottery in the first full year of implementation. But based on that concern, lawmakers shortened the language for the warning substantially.

The legislation now requires ticket labels read either “WARNING: LOTTERY GAMES MAY BE ADDICTIVE” or simply “PLAY RESPONSIBLY.”

Hargrove said if those warnings win DeSantis’ approval, it could deliver a substantial negative impact on the entire lottery industry.

“Retailers may not want to carry instant scratch-off tickets due to negative image this warning message conveys about addiction, making retailer recruitment more difficult,” Hargrove writes.

That comes not only because of the warning but a loss in marketing space on the ticket face. It could even interfere with security requirements around the bar code.

Ultimately, any loss in revenue for the state also means less money being pumped through the economy by retailers and prize winners.

“The Lottery industry has always proactively addressed problem gambling, through including ‘Playing Responsibly’ messaging on tickets and advertising materials as well as directly funding problem gambling organizations,” Hargrove writes.

“The Florida Lottery is generating over $1 billion annually to good causes in Florida, and I do not want to see this valuable resource and funding stream damaged,” she writes.

Jacob Ogles

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 [email protected]


One comment

  • MICHAEL

    May 20, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    Rebecca Hargrove should implement a plan if she is so dependent on the growing of players, like, taking away the tax increase in Palm Beach County. The lottery and casino’s are suppose to be funding schools and education but for some odd reason that went out the window when Parkland shooting occurred and of course they went right to the tax payers for money for security funding. The casino’s now have been playing illegal games at their locations and for some odd reason they are allowed to play and not fund the schools or teachers pay. It keeps going back on the tax payers. The casino’s have an obligation and so does the State to use as much of the gambling money as possible for the schools and children and teachers. Tax the casino’s 75% on their total revenue. Why should they make all of the money and leave the tax payers to foot the bill for anything. Gambling is an addiction so why does Rebecca Hargrove want to hide that from the public when it comes to gambling. It should be printed in clear view of the buyer. The government is just acting greedy again. It’s all about how much they can make and screw the tax payer. Gov DeSantis is a very weak Gov. He has no balls to make a deal with the Seminoles and put the racetracks in their place.. FOllOW THE LAW GOV. DESANTIS… STOP BEING A LOSER..

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