Margaret DeFrancisco has seen newly minted millionaires run the gamut–from smart investors who put their lottery winnings back to work in their communities to worried spenders who didn’t know what to do with their windfall.
Regardless, it’s all good business, the president of the Georgia Lottery Corp. said Nov. 2.
Georgia’s lottery, one of the largest worldwide, has put serious dollars back into local communities, including DeKalb County, and has helped thousands of students statewide receive a college education or attend important pre-school courses.
“It’s a great thing for the economy on multiple levels,” DeFrancisco said to the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce at their monthly luncheons.
The lottery has pumped more than $2 billion in winnings in DeKalb County since it started in 1993, she said. It was created and supported by former Gov. Zell Miller, who worried about starting a massive lottery program in what he called “the buckle of the Bible Belt.” But with about a third of the proceeds funding educational programs, the legislature approved the lotto.
“It was a very risky and very courageous thing he did,” DeFrancisco said of Miller.
DeFrancisco promoted the lottery, asking chamber members to play lotto and, when appropriate, promote it through their businesses. One attendee said her company gives wedding guests scratch cards – a very popular feature at her weddings.
The lottery has paid for about 64,000 DeKalb County students to receive a scholarship through the HOPE Scholarship program, which gives money to students in search of a college degree, DeFrancisco said. More than 60,000 have received a pre-kindergarten education in DeKalb County.
Nearly a million pre-K students have received an education through the lotto winnings, she said.
A few more fun facts from DeFrancisco: lotto obsession dates back as early as the 1700s, though the first lottery was created in Italy in 1530. (The Chinese, however, started a Kino-esque game thousands of years ago.) More than 40 other states have lotteries, though few are structured like Georgia’s (i.e. Money isn’t specifically dedicated to public funds such as education.) There are only 179 official lotteries worldwide, of which Georgia’s is 15th largest based on total ticket sales. Georgia’s most popular lotto kiosk is in the baggage claim area at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. That particular kiosk sold more than $7 million in lotto tickets last year, she said – a total that likely benefits from the long time people wait for their baggage.
“We hope they never get terribly efficient,” DeFrancisco joked.
Oh, and the lottery has given out more than $21 billion in prizes since it began.
“It is pretty doggone remarkable,” DeFrancisco said.
Before she left, she encouraged chamber members to purchase tickets.
“Today can be the day,” she said. “You just don’t know.”