Stop me if you've heard this one before: Texas lottery revenues are declining.
Texas officials fear that revenues dropped more than $100 million in the most recent fiscal year -- a $49 million blow to public education -- because the current crop of games are tired, unappealing and at the end of their life cycle. Sales are down 2.7 percent, including a $73 million decrease in the normally mega-popular scratch-offs.
"People get bored. How many times can you employ the same games?" said Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, chair of the committee that oversees the Texas Lottery Commission.
Flores and officials at the commission complain they can't fix the problem in the state's 16-year-old lottery.
Texas law restricts the lottery commission from introducing new forms of gambling, such as keno, video lottery terminals and instant online games. Those games give instant results, which are appealing for players.
"We can't expand, we can't do anything," Flores complained, directing his ire at gambling opponents who he insists have blocked a good number of his gambling initiatives in the Legislature.
Texas lottery officials estimate that video lottery terminals at racetracks could bring in an additional $1.4 billion in state revenue over a five-year period, with keno, a bingolike gambling game, bringing in as much as $173 million in additional revenue over a five-year period.
But gambling opponents aren't swayed by the numbers. They say the state has no business expanding games that tend to appeal to those least able to afford them.
On the bright side:
The drop in lottery revenue doesn't have education officials overly anxious.
"The public has the perception that the schools are highly dependent on lottery funds, but they're not," said Texas Education Agency Spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe. "Typically the lottery provides us with a billion a year. When they slip below that, other state monies make up the difference."