Do Lotteries Really Benefit Public Schools?

Of course there are loads of benefits for you when you play your favorite lottery, such as EuroJackpot or Mega Millions. But for some of you it’s about much more than filling your own pocket, right? You also try to do your bit for society by buying that ticket each week. It’s about charity! Even supporting education!

Or is it?

Unfortunately, there has been some controversy in recent times about whether lotteries really benefit establishments like charities and public schools.

So, what’s the truth? We dug a little deeper into these stories to bring you the facts, so you can enjoy playing the lottery online with peace of mind.

Why Do People Believe Lotteries Benefit Schools?

Let’s be honest. The marketing departments of leading international lotteries do thorough research and have come to know exactly what will prompt people to purchase more lottery tickets. Most consumers enjoy knowing their day-to-day actions benefit someone else. That’s why you’ll find most lotteries clearly state that proceeds of their ticket sales go towards supporting good causes.

Some lotteries’ profits go towards a general fund, as is the case in many US states. However, others have specific plans for that money and this is where schools often become part of the scenario. When a state or country helps the educational system with lottery funds, that will be made very clear in the game’s marketing material.

Furthermore, it makes sense that there’s an emphasis on charity in lottery advertising because consumers affect a lottery’s future. Some of them may only buy tickets if they know it’s for a good cause. Also, voters could have the power to bring a stop to a lottery if they no longer want it in their state or country. Managing the public’s perspective of a lottery’s values and purpose is an important part of ensuring a game’s success in the long term.

Because of focusing on charity during lottery advertising campaigns, players assume that all lotteries donate proceeds towards charity. They may even take it for granted that helping schools is an automatic outflow of any lottery. However, while many lotteries do make an impact on educational systems, others support alternative causes, including crime control and helping the environment.

In the UK it’s Parliament itself that decides where the lottery money will be invested. The establishments are from various industries, including arts, sports and education.

How Lotteries Help Education – Real Life Examples

Now, for the lotteries that do impact educational systems, how does it work exactly?

The flow of money will look different with each lottery. For one thing, it’s not only schools that get some cash, but also public universities and community colleges. However, in many states public schools form part of the list of beneficiaries.

How much goes towards these good causes will also look different, but it can add up to substantial amounts. Note that both the Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries donate as much as 80 c per ticket (sold for $2 each) to education programs.

This type of funds allocation has led to billions being paid to schools and other institutions. For example, in the US, the California Lottery has given $39 billion to education between 1984 and 2023.

How Do Some Educational Institutions Use Lottery Money?

Of course, the money being donated to educational facilities like public schools is only one part of the process. If those establishments don’t utilize the money in an appropriate way, the real purpose of the lottery money isn’t really achieved.

In most lottery players’ minds, the profits should impact lives and improve education. It’s worth noting that there are rules in place to ensure lottery donations are used in an appropriate manner. For example, in many cases a school can’t use it to build additional facilities.

Luckily, thanks to a strict system in place, there are many success stories of students being able to experience a better quality of education than what would have been possible without that lottery money.

Here are some examples:

  • Additional educational tools that schools wouldn’t be able to afford under normal circumstances.
  • Funding special projects to help students have richer insight into subjects like robotics, which increases their chances of having success in these fields later on.
  • Paying salaries to retain a sufficient number of teachers and ensure quality educators can continue impacting students.
  • Providing assistants for special education, giving more students the opportunity to receive quality education in an environment suitable to their needs.

Does Lottery Money Really Benefit Public Schools?

Still, despite success stories, some experts are concerned about the current scenario and believe it can be even better.

In short, departments do utilize lottery money in public schools but over the years the method of budgeting has changed. Instead of adding lottery donations to their standard budget, thus creating more opportunities to benefit students, these funds have become part of the regular educational budget.

In such a scenario, even though legally the lottery money is being used correctly, the money that would have been part of the budget is then used on other government expenses. As a result, there’s no real boost to a school’s budget – the source the money comes from has simply changed from the government to the lottery.

Many people hope for this to change in future.

Where Does the Money Go?

No matter how each government or state department decides how to utilize lottery donations, it’s good to know there are rules in place. But, when buying your lottery ticket you may wonder how much of that will end up helping charities and education.

Each lottery has different guidelines regarding the application of all money received from players. The type of establishments helped by lottery money include but aren’t limited to:

  • Homeless shelters
  • College enrollment programs
  • Crimes against children victims
  • Educational trust funds
  • Public school
  • Public buildings
  • Parks and wildlife
  • Health
  • Social services
  • Veterans assistance
  • Police pension funds
  • Firefighter pension funds
  • Sports, including Special Olympics
  • Literacy programs
  • Scholarships
  • Arts
  • Sport

When using lottery agents like theLotter which will purchase real lottery tickets on your behalf, it means that your money will be benefiting establishments like these.

lottery agents like theLotter

Source: theLotter

Of course, the entire amount can’t go to help public schools or charities, because funds are needed to run a lottery. Apart from helping beneficiaries and paying prize money, a lottery usually has to pay for:

  • Vendor fees
  • Retailer commissions
  • Lottery administration

For example, with the UK’s National Lottery, the company uses 4% for operating costs, while claiming that 95% eventually ends up in the hands of winners and society in general.

For the EuroMillions game, each participating country decides exactly how much of its lottery revenue is donated to charity. You may be surprised by the high percentages that do end up affecting people’s lives in a positive manner, as can be seen from the data of various lotteries below.

Education and Other Causes Prize Fund Operating Costs etc Profit to Lottery Operator Retailer Commission
Illinois Lottery 25%
Eurojackpot 50%
MegaMillions 21% +/- 50%
US Powerball 19% +/- 50%
EuroMillions (UK) 28% 50% 21% 1%
EuroMillions (Ireland) 27% 58% 10% 5%
EuroMilliions (Luxembourg) 20% 50% 30%
EuroMilliions (Switzerland) 24% 65% 5% 6%

How Much Money Does a Lottery Give to Schools?

A percentage may look impressive but how much money do these figures represent? Here are some hard numbers that give perspective of how much money from lottery sales end up helping students’ education:

  • Florida Lottery has donated over $40 billion to education by 2023.
  • In Virginia, data from 2011 showed that $444 million went to public education and in 2015, that number was $534 million.
  • A game like MegaMillions could report donations of over $19 billion over the years up until 2012.
  • From the North Carolina Education Lottery, over $2 billion was given to the education system in the state.

Final Thoughts

Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that enormous amounts of lottery money end up in the educational system. And luckily, it seems that most lotteries have firm guidelines in place to ensure the money isn’t misappropriated.

However, there is some concern in terms of how departments create their budgets. Instead of lottery money being additional income that can help save jobs and improve the quality of education, some departments cut down their own funding to schools. This means lottery money simply helps to maintain the status quo, rather than enhancing it.

So, it’s great to hear that lottery money does affect students’ lives. But even more positive stories can come from public schools if departments change some of their policies.


Where does Powerball money go?

The US Powerball lottery money is used to fund the prize pool, pay beneficiaries - such as public schools - as well as cover lottery administration costs and commissions paid to ticket retailers.

Where does Euromillions money go?

Percentages vary, but most European countries that host EuroMillions budget for prizes, beneficiaries, commission for retailers and running costs. There is also a percentage allocated as operator profit.

How much money does a lottery make in a year?

Each lottery is unique in terms of money collected from players and its revenue. As an example, 2016 statistics showed that over $80 billion was spent on lottery tickets and online lottery games in the US alone.

In which states do lottery money help public schools?

States where lottery money goes towards education, include but aren’t limited to California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. Each state may support a specific aspect of the education system.