The Pennsylvania Lottery advertises it “benefits older Pennsylvanians, every day.”
But in the last decade, billions of lottery dollars have been diverted, an NBC10 investigation found.
According to the state lottery, 27 cents of every dollar spent on lottery tickets goes into the state lottery fund. The rest pays prizes and lottery administration costs.
“The point of the lottery program is to have people age at home and maintain their independence,” Renee Cunningham of Philadelphia’s Center in the Park Senior Center said.
By law, other than prize payouts and operation expenses, the lottery fund is only supposed to be used for programs benefiting older Pennsylvanians - including prescription drug assistance, in-home care, transportation, and home maintenance.
Waiting lists for those programs are 4,000 seniors deep, according to senior advocates in Harrisburg.
“Those waiting lists could be eliminated,” Ray Landis of AARP Pennsylvania said. “Let’s have a true picture of what the lottery is paying for.”
Wolf’s administration, including Budget Secretary Randy Albright, said some lottery fund money is used to pay the state’s Medicaid bill. The NBC10 Investigators analysis of state Medicaid recipients found one third are seniors.
“We’re forced to rely on using some of those resources,” Albright said.
According to state budget records, in the last fiscal year the Wolf administration used $309 million from the lottery fund to pay for Medicaid’s longterm medical assistance programs. However, state healthcare records show fewer than 1 percent of seniors on Medicaid receive longterm care.
“I think that right now we have no alternative,” Albright said. “We need that money to balance the budget.”
Wolf’s staff provided documentation showing more than 45,000 residents over 60 did receive care from lottery funds. The Wolf administration is not the first to use lottery money to balance the budget. Since 2006, at least $3.9 billion has been taken from the lottery fund for that purpose.