State Lottery Opponents Fewer, But Politically Strong (295)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Most Tennesseans support a state lottery, but they have less political clout than the minority who oppose it, University of Tennessee researchers said Wednesday.

Dr. John Scheb, a UT-Knoxville political science professor who heads UT’s Social Science Research Institute, said a UT survey shows more than two-thirds of Tennesseans support a lottery.

Despite that, the state Senate Finance Committee has voted 5-4 against legislation to let Tennesseans decide on a state lottery, killing the lottery proposal for this year.

Scheb said polls show that those who oppose a lottery have more money, go to church more often, and feel more strongly about the issue. People who play the lottery are more likely to be from low-income households, he said.

“Those against the lottery are more likely to oppose it intensely, and more likely to go out and participate in the political process,” Scheb said. “Their position is much stronger politically than their mere numbers on the survey would suggest.”

Dr. Matt Murray, a UT-Knoxville economics professor who heads UT’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said a lottery could generate about $200 million in increased state revenues.

However, Murray said lottery revenues generally do not grow annually with state economic expansion. Lottery revenues earmarked for certain projects — such as education — often remain flat, and most states provide no other support for lottery-funded projects.

This makes it difficult for lottery-funded projects to expand, Murray said.

“Lotteries have had some confusing effects on state finances,” Murray said. “It’s a revenue winner in terms of a one-time boost, but it is not a long-term solution to Tennessee’s fiscal problems.”

Contact: Dr. John Scheb (423-974-2730)

Dr. Matt Murray (423-974-5441)