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    N.C. Nears Lottery Vote

    With citizens buying tickets from other states, lawmakers are optimistic a lottery will get support.

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina appears ready to gamble on a lottery and could schedule a vote as early as Wednesday to approve a state gaming bill.

    If a referendum clears the House Rules Committee and the full House where the votes are close, then it would go to the Senate, where it is likely to pass. The state Senate has passed lottery bills three times in the past two decades, most recently in 1993. But the question has never come up for a vote in the full House, according to the Charlotte News & Observer.

    Gov. Mike Easley has been pressing the legislature to approve a state lottery, saying lotteries enjoy popular support from a majority of citizens. The governor wants the estimated $400 million a year in revenue from the lottery to fund his education initiatives. And, he says, North Carolinians are already spending money on lotteries in neighboring states. In the past 15 years, Virginia, Georgia and most recently South Carolina have started lotteries. Another border state, Tennessee, has put a referendum on its November ballot.

    South Carolina is the most recent state to start a lottery, with the first tickets sold in January. Tara Robertson, a spokesman for the South Carolina Lottery, said the $319 million in ticket sales had exceeded the state Board of Economic Advisors initial estimate of $192 million for the first six months.

    Robertson said South Carolina lottery administrators had not estimated how much money North Carolinians were spending on ticket sales. North Carolinians spend about $125 million playing the Georgia and Virginia lotteries, based on estimates by those states, the report said.

    In all, 37 states and the District of Columbia have lotteries. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia had an increase in lottery sales in 2001 from the previous year. Meanwhile, 13 states had a decline in sales from a year ago including Georgia, which previously had seven consecutive years of growth.

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