TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Lawmakers seeking to slap gambling-addiction warnings on state lottery tickets and advertising once again failed to scratch out a winner.
On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis, noting potential impacts to money for education, vetoed a controversial bill (HB 629) that sought to require the following warnings to be prominently displayed on the front of all lottery tickets: “Warning: Lottery games may be addictive,” or “Play responsibly.”
DeSantis in a letter accompanying his veto noted that Florida Lottery officials expressed concerns the new warning requirements could affect marketing and participation in multi-state games.
“As governor, one of my key priorities is making higher education affordable for Florida families,” DeSantis wrote. “This bill reduces the Lottery’s ability to continue to maximize revenues for education and negatively impacts Florida students.”
The veto came as DeSantis signed seven other bills on Friday.
The lottery bill, sponsored by Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, had been a priority of House leaders.
Former Gov. Rick Scott, now a U.S. Senator, vetoed a similar measure in 2017, saying it would impose “burdensome regulations” on the games and retailers.
The Florida Lottery, which already encourages customers to “play responsibly” and promotes a toll-free number about gambling problems, would have become the first in the nation to include warning labels similar to what can be found on cigarette packs.
Lottery officials argued the change could cause an annual reduction between $79.4 million and $232.7 million in money that games generate for education.
They also warned the added gambling-addiction language could require the need to print larger tickets, which would increase costs and potentially affect contracts with retailers that provide vending machine games.
In addition, they contended the warnings could affect the state’s participation in multi-state games, such as Powerball and Mega Millions, and end scratch-off games that feature the TV shows “The Price is Right” and “Wheel of Fortune” and board games Monopoly and Scrabble.
“The regulations imposed by the bill would impact the Lottery’s ability to continue to take advantage of all these avenues and have the potential to impact the revenues available for educational enhancement,” DeSantis wrote in the letter.
State economists, who analyzed the potential effects of the bill, didn’t take such a dire view of the changes. They questioned if other states involved in the multi-state games would risk losing revenue from Florida because of the warnings and questioned whether adding warning labels would drive away retailers and consumers.
Don Langston, staff director for the House Finance & Tax Committee, said during a meeting this month that even if the state lost the Monopoly game, people would still want to play.
Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research, said at the same meeting that she didn’t anticipate a significant exodus of vendors “because they’re making money” from the Lottery.