Rebecca Hargrove

Florida’s first Lottery chief to DeSantis: Axe the warning!

Tennessee Education Lottery President and CEO Rebecca Paul Hargrove, who was Florida’s first Lottery secretary, is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a controversial measure that would require Lottery tickets and promotions to carry a warning that the games may be addictive.

The warnings could cause a $61 million hit to education in Florida, and could have a major impact on lottery sales nationally, according to Hargrove, who’s also the president of the World Lottery Association.

The Florida bill (HB 629) would require warnings to take up 10 percent of the space on the front of a ticket. Retailers also have to post warnings wherever the tickets are sold.

House Speaker José Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, pushed the proposal.

“The bottom line is, what’s important for people to know is that (the) Lottery, unlike other types of things that we consider possibly habitual or dangerous, is carried out by the state and does nothing to warn people of its habitual nature,” the speaker told reporters earlier this month.

Hargrove said she’s not aware of any other state that requires a warning to take up 10 percent of the front of the ticket, and warned that the warning message will have a “substantial negative impact” not only on the Florida Lottery but on the industry as a whole.

The warning “interferes” with bar codes on the tickets, cautioned Hargrove, who repeatedly referred to the “good causes” supported by state lotteries in her letter to the governor.

And the warning will have a “substantial negative impact on the aesthetics of the ticket,” the 36-year Lottery veteran warned.

“The play area of the ticket is the core of the appeal of these games to the consumer. Reducing the play area of the ticket will reduce the entertainment and play value of the instant game,” she predicted.

Retailers may not want to sell the instant scratch-off games “due to the negative image this warning message conveys about addiction,” Hargrove added.

The warnings could lead to a $235 million reduction in Lottery sales, which would result in a $61 million hit to education. In addition, retailers would lose about $14.1 million in commissions.

Hargrove also said she’s worried that Florida’s warnings could spread to other states.

“Our industry would not want Florida to set in motion a trend in legislatures that ultimately leads to a reduction in dollars for lottery beneficiaries, including college scholarships, pre-K funding, healthcare funding, programs that support senior citizens and state budgets,” she wrote.