5 states that have adopted lotteries since Alabama last voted on it

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – In 1999, Alabama voters shot down the State Lottery Act with 54% of the people saying no. Last month Governor Robert Bentley announced plans for a special session to discuss a possible statewide lottery. The session could lead to a lottery act appearing on the ballots this November. In the 17 years since Alabamians had the chance to vote on the lottery, 5 states have adopted their own: South Carolina, Tennessee, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.


Less than 2 years after Alabama shot down the lottery, South Carolina was approving their own. The South Carolina Education Lottery was passed in 2001, and the first tickets were sold the following January. As the name implies, the lottery was passed for state educational purposes. Section 1-1 of the South Carolina Education Lottery Act states, “net proceeds of lottery games conducted pursuant to this chapter must be used to support improvements and enhancements for educational purposes and programs as provided by the General Assembly and that the net proceeds must be used to supplement, not supplant, existing resources for educational purposes and programs.

SCLBWhere does the money go?

The SCEL website states that, since the launch of the lottery in 2002, the Legislature has appropriated $4.1 billion in lottery funds to a variety of educational programs. That includes more than $3 billion towards higher education programs and scholarships, $830 million allocated to K-12 programs, and $68 million for other community education programs.


Any Alabamian crossing into Georgia is likely to find a few fellow members of the Yellowhammer state trying their luck at lotto glory. But since 2004, the search for the proverbial jackpot could also be conducted in the state’s neighbor to the north, Tennessee.

In 2002, Tennessee voters approved a statewide referendum to permit a lottery. Just like South Carolina, the Tennessee lottery would go towards funding educational programs. In 2003, legislation authorized the Tennessee Education Lottery; and the following January, ticket sales began.

Where does the money go?

The Tennessee Lottery’s website claims that, “More than 100,000 individuals benefit each year from Lottery-funded awards and programs.”

The site adds that, since its inception in 2004, more than $3.8 billion has been raised for education programs, while 1 million grants and scholarships to in-state institutions have been awarded to students. The funding also reportedly benefits after-school programs, and the Tennessee Promise initiative which provides, “two years of tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college in Tennessee.”


Like Tennessee before them, North Dakota approved a constitutional amendment for lottery games in 2002, had legislation passed in 2003, and was selling tickets by March of 2004. The lottery proceeds get allocated in the state’s General Fund.

How does North Dakota’s lottery differ from others?

Article XI Section 25 of the North Dakota Constitution kicks off with the following, “The legislative assembly shall not authorize any game of chance, lottery, or gift enterprises, under any pretense, or for any purpose whatever. However, the legislative assembly shall authorize the state of North Dakota to join a multi-state lottery for the benefit of the state of North Dakota…

What that basically means is that the state of North Dakota only participates in “multistate lottery games”. That includes games like Powerball, Mega Millions, and Hot Lotto. What you won’t find in North Dakota are the instant win games, like the scratch-off tickets.

While the state lack the instant win games, it does offer something only found in a few other states – a subscription service. North Dakota Lottery Subscriptions, as the site proclaims, allows you to enter into every draw “without leaving home”.

Where does the money go?

Here is the full breakdown of each $1 lottery ticket:

Prizes Expense – 51%
State General Fund – 22%
Contracted Services – 10%
Administrative/Operating Expense – 6%
Retailer Commissions – 5%
Advertising/Marketing Expense – 2%
Compulsive Gambling Prevention and Treatment Fund – 1%
Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force Grant Fund – 2%
Prize Reserve Pools – 1%

Outside of prizes expenses, the highest percentage is allocated towards the General Fund at 22%. Other notable amounts include 2% for a Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force Grant Fund, and 1% for a Compulsive Gambling Prevention and Treatment Fund.


In November of 2004, Oklahoma voters said yes to State Questions 705 and 706. SQ705 created the Oklahoma Lottery Commission Act, while 706 established the Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund Amendment. Collectively the two measures determined that 45% of revenue would be returned as prizes, and that net proceeds of the lottery would be used for education purposes.

Full texts: SQ – 705 | 706

Where does the money go?

The Oklahoma lottery’s website states that over $755 million has been raised for Oklahoma’s education programs. The majority of which (45%) goes to fund elementary and secondary school programs.

Credit: Oklahoma Lottery
Credit: Oklahoma Lottery

Is the Oklahoma lottery working?

This is where it gets interesting in terms of Oklahoma’s lottery. The Oklahoma Education Association reports that the state has made more than $300 million worth of cuts to education since 2009. More cuts could be coming as well. So is the education lottery not working for Oklahoma? Or are the funding issues in the state just much larger?

A 2014 article from the Oklahoma Policy Institute states that the money from the lottery is helping, but overall funding is down, causing the lottery funds to only be a small fix to a bigger problem.

While the lottery is providing funding for education, one Senator in Oklahoma felt it wasn’t what they were promised. Last year Senator AJ Griffin (R) of District 20 tried to remove the lottery. During Oklahoma’s 2015-2016 Regular Session she introduced Senate Bill 332 “Lotteries; repealing Oklahoma Education Lottery Act; deleting permission to conduct lottery. Effective date.” The bill never made it past the Senate.


The most recent state to pass the lottery was Arkansas back in 2009. The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery was created to provide scholarships and grants for 2 and 4 year programs within the state for residents. The ASL’s website claims it has, “provided more than $600 million for in-state college scholarships to Arkansas students.”

Though the newest program, the Arkansas lottery has had early success, rising to the top 5 of among state lotteries, in terms of per capita sales. Just last month, the ASL reported that the past fiscal year was their most successful yet.

Where does the money go?

Unlike the other states, Arkansas has been a bit trickier in finding a breakdown of profits. There isn’t a specific percentage set for the funds allocated to the scholarship program. In the past year as much as 32% of the lottery revenue went to scholarship funds (June 2016) and as little as 11% (February 2016) have been allocated for scholarships. The average for the year is around 19% allocated.

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