Missourians will vote Aug. 5 on whether to add a veterans scratch-off ticket to the Missouri Lottery, with proceeds going toward improving the state’s veterans homes and cemeteries.
Currently all lottery proceeds go to education.
Rep. Sheila Solon, a Blue Springs Republican who sponsored the resolution to put the veterans lottery ticket on the ballot, said it is one way to better serve Missouri veterans.
“This is the least we can do for our veterans who served our country,” Solon said.
Dewey Riehn, chairman of the Missouri Veterans of Foreign Wars, testified for the bill and said he has been working for years to raise more money to address the waiting list for state veterans homes. Among the seven veterans homes, there are 1,350 beds and a waiting list of 2,000, Riehn and Solon said.
“There’s a tremendous need to increase capacity in veterans homes, and we are constantly working to get that done,” Riehn said.
Rich Heigert, legislative chairman of the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations, said the group is working to inform veterans organizations across the state in order to build a grass-roots advocacy campaign.
Some, however, have voiced concerns that the veterans lottery ticket would divert funding from education.
Sen. Paul LeVota, an Independence Democrat, and Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, a Kansas City Democrat, oppose the resolution, saying education and veterans services would both be better served by allocating funds from the state’s general revenue.
LeVota said he voted against the resolution to put the veterans lottery ticket on the ballot because veterans shouldn’t have to wonder if someone is going to buy a lottery ticket to support them.
He said that he wasn’t sure if this new lottery ticket would divert funds from education but that he didn’t like the idea of pitting veterans against children.
Solon said she wouldn’t disagree with those who say there needs to be more funds allocated to veterans from the general fund, but she did not think this addition would hurt education funding. In fact, she speculated that it could bring in new customers that wouldn’t have otherwise bought a lottery ticket.
Susan Goedde, the Missouri Lottery’s communications manager, said she doesn’t know how the veterans ticket might affect overall sales, but about 25 cents of every dollar has gone toward education exclusively since 1992.
“We’re just going to have to wait and see what voters decide and go from there,” Goedde said.
Representatives from the Missouri National Education Association, Missouri School Boards’ Association and Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said they have no position on the ballot measure.
Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Texas have each raised between $10 million and $33 million for veterans since allocating a portion of lottery revenues to a veterans fund. However, only the Texas lottery similarly supported education exclusively before adding the veterans lottery ticket.