Is North Carolina’s New Education Lottery Good for Blacks?

On March 30, North Carolina became the 42nd state to offer a state lottery. On the first day, $8 million in tickets were sold for the North Carolina Education Lottery. Estimates are that $1.2 billion in tickets could be sold annually with net proceeds for education of $400 million or more.

The proceeds from the lottery will be divided as follows:  half the money will be used to reduce class sizes in early elementary school grades with the goal of having one teacher for each 18 students; 40 percent of the proceeds will be earmarked for school construction; and the final 10 percent of the profits from the lottery will be used for college scholarships. In order to qualify for money for college from the lottery fund, a student must be eligible for a federal Pell grant for low-income students.

Blacks make up more than 20 percent of the college-age population in North Carolina. And college-bound blacks in North Carolina are disproportionately from low-income families. Therefore, college-bound black students will benefit from the new lottery scholarships.

But the black community may pay a huge price. A large percentage of the retail outlets with lottery sales terminals are located in predominantly black, low-income neighborhoods. Critics of the lottery say that far more money will be spent by blacks in these neighborhoods than the money that is returned in the form of educational funding or scholarships.