Tennessee’s lottery has strung together a perfect 10. Ticket sales have gone up every year since its inception in January of 2004 – a decade ago. But can the streak last?
Most lotteries tend to hit a dip or at least a plateau as the newness wears off and players get tired of losing. Even the biggest lotteries in California and Texas have hit rough patches. But ticket sales in Tennessee just keep going up, though the recession did slow down growth to a near-standstill in 2008.
Tennessee’s lottery is relatively young, but it expects the honeymoon to continue for at least the next five years.
CEO Rebecca Hargrove – who started lotteries in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida – says sales are projected to keep climbing.
“We certainly hope so, and we’re the only lottery in the nation to have done that. I’ve actually done this 28 years, and I’ve personally had 28-straight-years of growth.”
But the growth hasn’t resulted in surpluses for college scholarships. In fact, the state has had to dip into the lottery’s nearly $400 million reserve account in recent years, primarily because so many more students are qualifying.
More than 100,000 students received HOPE scholarships last year – more than three times as many as when the program started.
Even as lottery sales are projected to rise, some Republican state lawmakers want to implement a “stabilization plan” making the scholarships tougher to get starting in 2015.
“We must have a fiscally sound lottery scholarship program that will not only ensure stability for the immediate future of the fund, but makes sure it will be there for the next generation of students,” Sen. Delores Gresham (R-Somerville) said in 2012.
However, there is an escape clause. So long as lottery proceeds for education grow by $10 million a year, scholarships won’t be cut.