Lottery game would help veterans

Coloradans may get the chance to decide at the polls this fall whether they want to see a special lottery game that benefits programs for veterans.

Under a bill approved in a Senate committee Wednesday, the Colorado Lottery would come up with some sort of scratch ticket or game and dedicate any proceeds from it to help the state’s nearly half a million veterans.

The measure is designed to find a way to fund veterans programs without taking limited state money away from other programs, said its two sponsors, Sens. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, and Suzanne Williams, D-Denver.

Though the measure passed the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee on a 3–2 vote, all of the committee members expressed concerns about potential effects on other lottery-fund recipients. The senators said they want to increase funding for veterans programs but not take money away from parks and open space, where the bulk of lottery proceeds are spent.

“I’m still not satisfied in the least over the cannibalization aspect,” said Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City. “I still don’t see ... if we’re increasing the (lottery) pie or slicing into it. Despite my misgivings, I’m going to support this, but I still have some serious issues here.”

More than three dozen people spoke for and against the bill, including numerous environmental groups and veterans organizations.

Both sides said they want to see the other get the funding they deserve, and they did not want to find themselves competing for the same pot of money.

The Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees the lottery, predicted a veterans scratch ticket could generate about $2 million in the first two years. The problem is, the department doesn’t know whether that amount would be additional ticket sales or come from ticket buyers purchasing veterans tickets rather than regular lottery tickets.

The resolution next heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for more discussion on what financial impact it will have.

Lottery proceeds include direct disbursements to local governments for parks and outdoor recreation projects.

“From the outset, the veterans sought a way that would avoid any conflict with environmental groups and other groups that benefit from the Colorado Lottery,” said William Robinson, membership committee chairman of the United Veterans Committee of Colorado. “There is no immediate answer in the (state budget), so a lottery seemed to be the way to do this.”



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