Can you name the biggest source in Utah that subsidizes our schools' free and reduced-fee lunch programs? Can you? I'll give you a minute, because I bet you can't.
Well? Okay, I'll tell you. It's TAX REVENUE FROM THE UTAH STATE LIQUOR STORES.
Your kids get free or reduced-fee lunches because I buy wine. You don't buy wine, but I do.
You should thank me.
It's odd to me that the predominant religion here has the worldwide reputation of producing offspring like rabbits, often in financial circumstances that don't allow for the best possible outcomes, and when the little darlings are sent off to school, their lunches are subsidized by those buying liquor, and who, therefore, by definition, are not members of the dominant religion, and who, therefore, likely have fewer children. That's a guess, but I doubt it could be proven incorrect.
I heard this quite some time ago, and I have just been sitting here, letting that little tidbit of information brew for a while. Until now. I've said for a long time that Utah could solve a lot of its woes by doing a state-sanctioned lottery. Everybody gets all up in arms about it, and there is obviously no way on earth our churchislature would pass such a forward thinking liberal idea.
Frankly, if there is ANY state that SHOULD have a lottery, it's Utah. Already our schools have the smallest student to tax base ratio because of the "full quiver" theory. So, we're already behind. How do other states manage the education of their children, among many other things? They have a state lottery.
And before you get all hoity toity on crime and other civil woes, a 1998 study conducted for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission found no correlation between gambling problems and lotteries. "It does not appear that the availability of a lottery has an impact on (problem gambling) prevalence rates," it reports. the study also notes that those who are "gamblers" are also likely to purchase lottery tickets.
And here's something interesting - 53% of Utahns state that gambling is an acceptable form of entertainment. In a 2004 survey by Harrah's, a casino company, estimated that 402,000 Utahns visited casinos during 2003 — or 27 percent of the population over age 21. It said they made nearly 1.5 million trips out of state to casinos that year. That was high enough for the Salt Lake metro area to rank No. 44 among the nation's cities for generating casino trips.
Let's look at some neighboring states:
Idaho has nearly 1,200 stores that sell lottery tickets. The top six locations are all on the Utah border in tiny towns, according to computer-assisted analysis of data obtained through public documents laws. The top-selling location in all of Idaho is the Kwik Stop in Malad on I-15 just north of the border. It sold $2.54 million worth of tickets in fiscal 2004. That is 27 times more than the $92,000 average for all Idaho lottery sales locations.
"About 90 percent of our business is from Utahns," estimates Bobby Green, the assistant manager of the Kwik Stop. Polls show that 33 percent of Utahns surveyed say they have played the Idaho lottery sometime in their lives — including 12 percent who played it within the past year. Another 14 percent have played lotteries in other surrounding states, including 7 percent who did so within the past year.
The Idaho Lottery says it has provided more than $275 million to that state since it began in 1989. Half goes to its public schools, and half goes to the Permanent Building Fund. Based on last year's data about border sales, it appears Utahns contributed possibly 8.5 percent of that profit — or about $23 million. Only 22 percent of the total amount gambled ends up going to the state as profit — so Utahns may have spent more than $106 million on the Idaho lottery since it began in 1989.
Way to go Utah.
Colorado also offers a lottery, with sales sites just over the border. Colorado sold $409.9 million in lottery products in 2004, a 6 percent increase over 2003. The state says $101.6 million of that went to state schools, parks and building funds.
Arizona has a state lottery, with some sales locations not far over the Utah border — but all are far from Utah urban centers. Gamblers wagered $366.5 million on the Arizona lottery in 2004. The state received $107.8 million from that, which it divided among its general fund, health funds, mass transit, health funds and other programs.
The New Mexico lottery, with some sales locations near the Utah border, sold $148.7 million in tickets last year. Of that, $35.9 million went to state education programs and scholarships.
Wyoming tried to pass legislation for a state lottery, but the measure failed on a tie vote on the House of Representatives floor.
The thing is this: State lotteriess benefit local education in almost every instance. And Utahns have shown that they will travel to places that DO have lotteries, because they enjoy playing. Their money goes to educate other states' children.
Note that "gambling" activities in other states, other than lotteries, also collect massive amounts of money from Utahns. The City Manager of Wendover, NV, states that his city would not exist without money from Utahns. Wyoming Downs racetrack attracts 85% of its patrons from Utah. That also includes jockeys and horses.
If Utahns are so interested in going elsewhere to drop a few quarters or buy a lottery ticket, let's just do it here, leave the money in the state, and educate our children without charging me through the nose for an already paltry selection of wines - which is another gripe entirely.