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The South Carolina Legislature yesterday voted to start a state lottery that is expected to boost convenience store sales and raise about $150 million a year for education.
The lottery was a central issue in the 1998 campaign of Gov. Jim Hodges. He said the games were needed to pay for improvements in a state that consistently ranks last in the nation in education, according to the Associated Press.
In arguing for the lottery, Hodges said South Carolina loses $115 million a year to the Georgia lottery from residents who cross the border to play lottery games. That windfall has helped Georgia pump $4 billion into its public schools since 1993 and pay for its Hope scholarship program that guarantees every high school student with a B average free tuition to state colleges and universities, the report said.
"Come on, South Carolina, don't ruin it for us by getting your own lottery," a fictional Georgia convenience store owner named Bubba said in a pro-lottery advertising campaign.
Before the issue could be taken up by the Legislature, the governor had to lead a campaign last year for a constitutional amendment to allow the games, which were forbidden in the state charter. Fifty-four percent of voters backed the amendment.
The measure does not specify how the money will be divided among educational programs; legislative leaders said that might not be done until next year. Lottery supporters have said they want the games to start by Nov. 1.