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Privatize The Lottery?

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S.C. Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Bamberg) wants to privatize the South Carolina Education Lottery … except not really. What he wants is for government to continue enjoying its gambling monopoly – just with a private subcontractor handling the administration.

“We have the opportunity here to not only save millions of dollars and create a more effective and efficient lottery, but also to leverage private sector incentives that increase lottery revenues and give more of our students a shot at a college education,” Sellers said. “We’re talking about a real game changer here and I’m very excited.”

Sellers may be excited, but we’re yawning … and underwhelmed.

Theoretically we don’t have a problem with this proposal – although it would have been nice if Sellers had bothered to quantify the “millions of dollars” in savings his legislation would achieve prior to dropping the bill. To his credit, Sellers says he’s working on getting us a number. Also to his credit, he says he wants to devote at least some of the savings to “small business tax relief.”

We would insist on every penny going to individual income tax relief (a.k.a. the tax most small businesses pay) … but that’s just us. Watching out for the bottom line again.

Unfortunately, until Sellers specifies where and how much money his legislation would “save” – and how much of that pile he would devote to tax relief – we can’t say whether his bill is worth the trouble.

More to the point, though, Sellers’ legislation fails to address the real issue. State government doesn’t need to farm out its lottery business to a private sector provider – it needs to get out of the lottery business altogether. Not only that, it needs to eliminate its increasingly aggressive prohibition on private sector gaming – which costs our state billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs annually.

We’ve weighed in on these issues numerous times in the past but unfortunately lawmakers aren’t listening. As a result, we remain a poor state whose leaders are committed only to tinkering around the edges of real reform – not boldly embracing the free market reforms which could materially enhance prosperity for all.

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