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Education lottery offers chance to ‘dream a little’

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By Alice Garland

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Guest Columnist

Perhaps it’s a dream of doing something fun, learning to scuba dive or going to Disney World. Maybe it’s a desire to help someone, paying for a new kitchen for your mother or donating to a good cause. Or it could be giving someone the gift of education.

Over and over again, when you talk to someone about why they play the lottery, they mention they have fun thinking about what they would do if they win. They talk about their dreams.

Two dreams are realized with our state lottery. One dream comes from the fun North Carolinians have as they win prizes. Some prizes can change a life. Many others can make a day. The other dream comes with the extra money raised by the lottery to help make our state a better place.

In 2015, Fontella Marie Holmes of Shallotte, a 26-year-old single mother of four, who came forward Feb. 23 to claim her $188 million share of the $564 million Feb. 11 Powerball jackpot and become the largest lottery winner in state history.

The lottery’s new look captures those dreams. The familiar mountains to the sea scene, graced with a shooting star, now has a dreamy look that announces to the viewer: “Dream a little.”

Why the dream theme? Essentially, a lottery is in the business of possibilities. Lottery games offer prizes that deliver some joy and thrill to winners, and along the way the dreams that fuel the fun raises millions for education.

As executive director of the lottery, I wanted you to know the reveal of our new brand caps months of work to refresh our state lottery after its first 10 years of service to the state.

Your state lottery now runs on the newest and most advanced operating system of any lottery in the U.S. The system provides the technical infrastructure that supports the lottery games and allows lottery ticket sales and payments of prizes to occur simultaneously at more than 6,850 retailers across North Carolina.

This big change will be transparent to most of you, but it’s exciting to get new technology to support our games and ticket sales. It allows the lottery to work more effectively and efficiently with retailers and provide more engaging games.

We hope the system speeds up the sale of lottery tickets. The store’s printer is faster. And every store has a way to check your own tickets to see if you have a winner. No need to stand in a line for that.

After 10 years, it’s clear North Carolinians enjoy playing the lottery. Our sales show people voting with their dollars. Last year, lottery ticket sales averaged $6.5 million a day. Prizes won by North Carolinians averaged $4.1 million a day. And the amount of money raised for education hit a new record of $634 million, or $1.7 million on average a day.

All lottery earnings go to support education programs. It’s extra money adding to the tax dollars that make public education the biggest investment in the state budget. Still, all the education programs that get support from the lottery could use more money.

Counties would like more money from the lottery to build and repair their schools. More lottery money for NC Pre-K would reduce waiting lists for those 4-year-olds who could use a stronger start in school. More money for scholarships and grants would help make college affordable for more of our young people. And more money would help our public schools achieve greater success in teaching our kids.

So far, the lottery has increased the money it has raised every year. More money from the lottery does help meet those needs. It’s up to state leaders to weigh the needs, set priorities and decide the best use.

All good brands should have a purpose. Here’s ours. Playing and supporting the education lottery creates possibilities across our state. And through the fun of play and the billions raised for education, we provide the fuel for some of our most important dreams.

Alice Garland is N.C. Education Lottery executive director. She can be reached at (919) 301-3456 or via nclottery.com.