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Governor vetoes bill on lottery warning labels

Opponents feared the measure would cut into Lottery revenue by the tens of millions.

A bill that would have added warning labels to every ticket sold by the Florida Lottery was vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis Friday.

The bill (HB 629) would have required the tickets to read “WARNING: LOTTERY GAMES MAY BE ADDICTIVE” or simply “PLAY RESPONSIBLY.”

But they would have had to take up no less than 10 percent of the face of a ticket and be on signs in stores, and “all advertisements or promotions of lottery games, including those on television, the Internet, print, and the radio.”

Still, those options were a significant cutback from the House’s original proposal, which would have required tickets to read “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.”

The bill was heavily opposed by the Florida Lottery as well as other gaming groups, such as the World Lottery Association.

DeSantis’ thumbs-down was no surprise. At his 2019-20 state budget-signing news conference last week, he was asked whether he would veto it.

“Stay tuned,” he said, smiling. “You’ll find out soon enough, I guess next week,” adding that once he receives the bill, “we’ll have a decision very quick.”

During a Senate committee meeting, Lottery Secretary Jim Poppell told lawmakers the change wouldn’t deter people with a gambling addiction from buying tickets, but it could scare away other players.

That would cause the lottery’s payouts to the Education Enhancement Trust Fund to drop by tens of millions of dollars a year — the lottery holds back about 27 percent of its gross ticket sales for the education fund.

A report from the Revenue Estimating Conference said that if the bill became law, the first full year would cause a $64 million dip in payouts on the low end, though it could have reduced education deposits by as much as $235 million.

“As governor, one of my key priorities is making higher education affordable for Florida families,” DeSantis wrote in a letter accompanying the veto. “This bill reduces the Lottery’s ability to continue to maximize revenues for education and negatively impacts Florida students.”

The low-end figure amounts to more than 5,000 Bright Futures scholarships, which pay out about $12,000 apiece for higher education tuition. The top-end figure equates to about an eighth of the $1.86 billion the Florida Lottery expects to deposit into the EETF this fiscal year.

Since selling its first ticket in 1988, the Florida Lottery has pumped more than $35 billion into the state’s education trust fund.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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