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Michigan Lottery talks school aid, transparency, and what’s up with the repeat winners

Neon sign that reads "lottery open"
Susu Jabbeh
The Michigan Lottery sold $3.3 billion in games this past fiscal year, according to Holyfield.

Last year was a record year for Michigan lottery money going to schools.

Jeff Holyfield, director of public relations at the Michigan Lottery, joined Stateside to discuss the Michigan Lottery’s financial involvement in the state, and what's up with repeat winners.

“Our contribution makes up about 7.5% of the school aid fund,” Holyfield said, which is a record high for Michigan Lottery at $915 million for this year.

In a recent Stateside conversation, we talked to Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, an investigative journalist, author, and assistant professor of journalism at Grand Valley State University, about repeat lottery winners. We asked Holyfield to weigh in.

“What we do in Michigan is that we mainly focus on repeat winners with our retailers,” Holyfield said. “What we’re looking at there, we have a system set in place where if a retail owner, one of our licensees, claims 20 prizes of more than $600 in a year, or claims $20,000 in total prizes, then we will look at them and conduct an investigation.

He said what’s going on there is a practice called “discounting.” When winners don’t want to cash the prizes under their own names, a retailer might buy the winning ticket from them, cash it on their behalf, and share the prize.  

Holyfield said that in 2016, there were “20 retailers that were investigated for that,” but he attributed some of the repeat winners to the fact that “there are some people who play a lot, and if you play a lot, you’re going to win a lot.”

Listen above for the full conversation.

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