AIKEN - Starting Monday, South Carolina will begin building its educational reputation one dollar at a time.
The Palmetto State, ranked consistently at the bottom of many national educational comparisons, will reap the first profits from its eduction lottery as four scratch-off ticket games go on sale at 6 a.m.
Those games - The South Carolina Education Lottery game, Scenic South Carolina, 3 Times Lucky and $100,000 Carolina Riches - will be followed by two more similar games in a month and Cash 3, a numbers game, in the spring.
How much those tickets will bring to the state's coffers in the first year is not known.
Gov. Jim Hodges, who pushed for the lottery, estimated $150 million early on. The state's Board of Economic Advisers was more conservative, figuring the first-year take to be about $75 million.
Two years later, the board's estimate has soared to $380 million.
"We don't want to be too optimistic about it," said John C.B. Smith, the chairman of the South Carolina Education Lottery Commission. "Hopefully we'll be somewhere around there."
Whatever amount comes to South Carolina, legislators have mandated that the dollars go to education.
But they have yet to pin down what educational programs will reap the windfall, and that could hamper the lottery's success.
The director of the Georgia Lottery said the Peach State's lottery is successful because legislators decided where the money would be spent before the first ticket was sold.
Georgia's lottery shattered start-up records by selling $1.1 billion in its first year. It broke its own goal of $463 million in six months.
Director Rebecca Paul said the Georgia lottery has won over its critics - the vote to approve the lottery in the Peach State was tighter than in South Carolina - because the money went where politicians said it would.
Voters approved the lottery in South Carolina by a 56 to 44 percent vote in November 2000. Georgia's vote was 52 to 48 percent in 1992.
South Carolina officials agree that Palmetto politicians need to pass lottery legislation soon after they begin debate Tuesday.
Dragging out the plan or ending up with none at all when there is enough money to start spending worries both educators and lottery officials. Lottery money cannot be spent until it totals $35 million.
Any delay would be bad public relations for the lottery.
"That's what concerns me more than anything else," Mr. Smith said. "I think it is extremely important for our Legislature to decide this issue early on in the next session."
While legislators debate, the critics who almost defeated the lottery will continue to wage a grass-roots battle against the games.
The South Carolina Baptist Convention has passed out 10,000 bumper stickers that read: Don't Bet On It.
Some critics, such as the religious group, say the lottery will have to become more and more aggressive in its marketing to stay economically viable. That, they fear, could lead to more people becoming addicted and more choosing to play the lottery instead of paying for necessities.
"It's not worth what it is going to cost the state," said Joe Mack, the convention's director of Christian life concerns.
One early cost of the lottery will be advertising, with $7.5 million set aside for the start-up. That money will make the South Carolina games more competitive with Georgia's.
But the lottery also will compete with other products in convenience stores and gas stations, Ms. Paul said.
"When you walk into a store with a $20 bill to pay for $18 worth of gas, I want you to spend that $2 on lottery tickets," she said. "Remember you are marketing a consumer product and you are competing against Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay and Mars candy."
Mr. Smith said South Carolina can compete with other products, though the state is not fully armed.
"There were a number of things in our legislation designed to hamper the lottery," he said. "We just got to work through those and work through the framework of our legislation. That's all we can do."
SCENIC SOUTH CAROLINA: Win $1 to $2,000, cost $1
Scratch off entire area of ticket and match three dollar amounts and win.
$100,000 CAROLINA RICHES: Win $1 to $10,000, cost $2
Scratch off entire area of ticket and match your number to the winning numbers up to nine times and win.
Find a "GP" on a bonus box and win one of 20 grand prizes, from $10,000 to $100,000.
SOUTH CAROLINA EDUCATION LOTTERY GAME (THE LOGO GAME): Win $1 to $5,000, cost $1
Scratch off entire area of ticket, match the winning number to any of your numbers and win prize shown. Five chances to win.
3 TIMES LUCKY: Win $1 to $3,000, cost $1
Scratch off entire area of ticket, get three "3's" in a row to win.
Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
JULY 1, 2000: South Carolina's ban on video poker begins.
SEPT. 1, 2000: Gov. Jim Hodges, who ran for governor promising a state lottery, unveils his plan for the games.
NOV. 7, 2000: South Carolina voters, 56 to 44 percent, agree to amend the state constitution to allow a lottery.
MARCH 22: Lottery legislation is introduced in the Senate.
JUNE 7: Both houses send the bill to the governor.
JUNE 16: The Education Lottery Act is signed by the governor.
JULY 11: The Lottery Commission conducts its first meeting.
AUG. 7: Ernie Passailaigue is chosen as the state's first lottery director.
NOV. 19: The first lottery retailer is announced.
MONDAY: The first lottery tickets will be sold.
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