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By Sheldon S. Shafer
The Kentucky Lottery, for the first time, is running ads explaining that nearly all of its profits are used to support educational programs, due to a new regulation lifting a restriction on advertising where proceeds are distributed.
Where lottery money goes is “a huge, huge question” that seems never to be sufficiently answered in the public’s mind, Kentucky Lottery spokesman Chip Polston said in an interview Monday. The question is nearly unending, he said.
Until July 1, it was against the law for the lottery to advertise where proceeds from the sale of its tickets were spent. But now, for the first time in its 25-year history, the lottery can tell citizens that nearly all the proceeds turned back to state government go for scholarship and education programs.
When the state’s General Assembly adopted the lottery enabling legislation in 1989, a stipulation was included that said “government programs and services shall not be mentioned in advertising” or promotions.
That left Kentucky as the only lottery state to prohibit in advertisement the mention of where lottery funds were directed. Polston noted that both the Tennessee and South Carolina lotteries go so far as to include the word “educational” in the name of the state lottery.
Arch Gleason, Kentucky Lottery president and CEO, said legislators have told him that, at the time “there was a great fear of the unknown” and “the level of concern was high as to what kinds of ads we would run.” He said one key concern was that ads might overpromise benefits. “Given that level of nervousness,” the restriction was enacted, he said.
Lottery officials said that over the years there were several attempts to overturn the ban until it was finally lifted by the 2014 General Assembly.
Polston said television ads — one 30-second spot — began running Monday in seven markets across the state. The ad focuses on Molly Anderson, a University of Kentucky graduate and a special education teacher with the Fayette County Public Schools.
The spot, which was created and produced by the Louisville-based Bandy Carroll Hellige agency, tells how she received a scholarship under a program funded by lottery procceds. The assistance helped her go to college and fulfill her hope to be a teacher, the ad points out.
Lottery profits, under state regulations, go for three scholarship and grant programs.
Research conducted by the Kentucky Lottery indicates that more than 80 percent of state residents don’t believe they received enough information on how proceeds are spent, and almost 80 percent felt the lottery should be able to advertise how proceeds are distributed.
Polston said the lottery has budgeted about $280,000 for the initial advertising campaign on where the money goes. He said the spot is scheduled to run at least intermittently through mid-September. Additional commercials are expected to be developed later.
Since 1989, more than $4 billion in proceeds from Kentucky Lottery sales have been turned over to the state treasury.
In 1999, proceeds started a gradual shift away from the General Fund and into college scholarships and grants. Since that time, more than $2.2 billion in lottery money has gone for scholarships and educational grants distributed by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.