Cynthia O'Connell: Lottery supports students

Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 4:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 4:25 p.m.

The start of another school year provides a wonderful opportunity for young Floridians to get back together with old friends and make new ones – some of them to last a lifetime. Most students, however, aren’t even aware of one extraordinary friend that supports them every day and is especially excited to see them return to classes. That friend is the Florida Lottery.

For more than 25 years, the Lottery has provided much-needed resources that open doors of opportunity for thousands of Florida students, from young children in kindergarten to young adults nearing the end of their college days. And, like a student preparing to make new acquaintances, the Florida Lottery continues to spruce itself up and make things interesting.

This year the Lottery celebrated its 25th anniversary with a new look featuring an updated logo and brand identity, and that helped propel us to an all-time sales record with more than $5 billion in ticket sales. What that all means is more for students – we reached the $25 billion mark in funds for education, including $1.4 billion to Florida’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund in the past year alone. Florida now has the second largest lottery in the United States, and every ticket sale makes an important difference in the lives of students.

The Florida Lottery also serves as a broader economic engine for the state of Florida, returning 98 percent of revenue to Florida citizens, businesses and communities in the form of prize payments, education funding, and goods and services. We owe our success to the enthusiasm and support of those who enjoy playing our games, but we also are able to fund education to the extent we do because of the dedication and commitment of more than 13,000 retailers who promote and sell our products every day.

From one end of our state to the other, children of all ages learn with technology and other resources provided through revenue generated by the Florida Lottery. At the same time, thousands of college students are able to afford higher education thanks to Bright Futures scholarships, funded by Lottery ticket sales. That benefit is enjoyed at college campuses across our state, and the University of Florida is certainly no exception – since 1997, the home of Gator Nation has received more than $870.3 million in Bright Futures funds to educate the future leaders of our state and beyond.

In Gainesville, of course, the start of a school year means football season is upon us, and the Florida Lottery recently launched the first-ever licensed college football Scratch-Off ticket game, called $50,000 Gridiron Cash. Who can resist a game that features the logos of the UF Gators and the FSU Seminoles – along with the chance to win cash or other second chance prizes, including a bowl game package, a pair of season tickets, a game day experience or team merchandise?

Innovative and fun games keep the Lottery’s success on the fast track by expanding the selection of games, attracting new players and meeting the entertainment expectations of countless loyal players.

The Florida Lottery is excited to welcome students back to Florida classrooms this fall, and will be hosting ice cream socials to honor Bright Futures scholarship recipients on college campuses across the state. Our commitment to generating as much as possible for education remains strong.

The accomplishments achieved by the Florida Lottery over the past quarter-century have earned us a reputation as one of the most successful and efficient lotteries in the nation, and we look forward to providing continued support for Florida’s students and schools as we work together to build a brighter future for our state.

Cynthia F. O'Connell is secretary of the Florida Lottery.

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