Lawmakers want unclaimed lottery money to go toward students

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Lawmakers in Santa Fe are taking another stab at replenishing the Lottery Scholarship tuition fund. This time, the idea involves moving unclaimed and forfeited prize money each year into the fund.

Every year, $2 million to $3 million in New Mexico Lottery prize money goes unclaimed or forfeited, according to the sponsors of the bill, Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho.

Both representatives — in their non-partisan effort — think that money would be better off in the tuition pool.

“That would definitely give a boost to how much money is available to cover lottery scholarship tuition,” Rep. Harper said.

The money would be moved from the hands of the Lottery Authority, where Rep. Martinez says it usually goes into marketing for the gaming system.

The bill does more than just this, however. It also changes the way Lottery Authority gives bonuses and commission to employees and contractors.

Instead of being based on gross revenue, the bonuses and commission would be based on how much money goes into the lottery scholarship fund each month. This would act as an incentive to put money into the lottery scholarship.

“This is about the students, this is about ensuring solvency in our scholarship lottery fund and this is about putting students first,” Rep. Martinez said.

The bill would also make video gambling illegal, i.e. gas station pumps and inside bars.

Last year, a bill that focused only moving unclaimed prize money to the lottery scholarship fund was vetoed by Gov. Martinez.

In her veto memo, the governor said the idea would actually hurt the fund more than it would help. Citing the Lottery Authority, she said moving the unclaimed money to the fund would result in a loss of $5 million to $6 million every year because fewer people would play.

However, both representatives said they are hopeful she would sign this year’s bill into law if it makes it to her desk.

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