ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the correct winning numbers.
In what has become a semi-annual ritual, Americans all over the country lined up at convenience stores Friday to try the odds — and become the country’s next millionaire.
Friday’s $660 million jackpot was the ninth-largest in U.S. history, Florida Lottery officials said. After 26 rollovers without a winner since April, it was the third-largest Mega Millions jackpot.
Tonight’s winning numbers are: 14-40-60-64-66 and the Mega ball is 16.
The potential winner(s) and the stores that sold winning tickets won’t be the only entities coming out ahead.
In Florida, 28 cents from every dollar spent on a lottery ticket goes to an educational trust fund that is designed to boost funding throughout the state. According to financial documents, the fund is expected to generate $2.2 billion from lottery ticket sales this year — and $31 million from this round of Mega Millions alone.
“It definitely helps that overall number,” a Florida Lottery spokeswoman said, adding that they plan for one or two big jackpots per year.
That funding will be split among many priorities, with public schools, colleges, workforce training and financial aid programs getting hundreds of millions of dollars each.
That’s how the program is supposed to work on paper, anyway.
For years, education officials throughout the state have criticized Tallahassee for using the lottery revenue as a replacement for education funding instead of adding onto it. A 2018 Eyewitness News investigation found lawmakers slashed up to 10% of the state’s funding toward schools, diverting the money to other projects.
“I think it’s a big shell game and I think the public is finally being made aware of it,” Lake County school board member Bill Mathias said in 2018. “The net gain has been basically zero.”
In fact, it has been a net negative for poorer communities. Lower-income people tend to play the lottery more often and a higher concentration of lottery sale points are found in those communities, studies have found. That means dollars from those communities are flowing to schools across the state — including wealthy ones — at higher rates than dollars from rich neighborhoods.
Recently, some lawmakers have suggested restoring funding to pre-lottery levels, though they said doing so would mean a tax increase or spending cuts in other areas.
However, with Florida posting a budget surplus 10 times higher than lottery revenues for the current fiscal year, politicians would conceivably have the room to restore what schools estimate would be $100 per student, per year.
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