Georgia Lottery celebrates 20th anniversary - FOX 35 News Orlando

Georgia Lottery celebrates 20th anniversary

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ATHENS, Ga. -

Georgia leaders past and present came together to observe the 20th anniversary of the state lottery.  A special ceremony was held at the University of Georgia on Wednesday.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal governor honored one of his predecessors by declaring the day as "Zell Miller Day."

As governor, Zell Miller helped establish the state lottery in 1993 to fund the HOPE Scholarship program. He even bought the first ticket.

Miller says in the 20 years since, the program has grown beyond the expectations even he had for it.

"I hoped that it might be something that would help with some scholarships, but never did I dream anything like this," Miller said.

Lottery officials say that the Georgia Lottery has raised more than $14 billion for education.

The lottery and HOPE have also faced challenges.

Lawmakers recently restructured the program because of financial issues during the economic downturn.
 
"We had more students -- lots more students -- and also rising tuition at a time when discretionary dollars were very tight for Georgia citizens," said Debbie Alford, Georgia Lottery's CEO.

Gov. Nathan Deal said, "I think with the reforms we have made, we have seen an increase in the revenue and that coupled with the reforms, I think it has put us on very solid ground for a very long time."

State officials praised the program's successes as recipients talked about what HOPE meant as they pursue their education.

"It's definitely affected me because I know some of my peers who would not have been able to go to college had it not been for the program," said Anna Wrigley, a HOPE scholar.

Lottery officials estimate more than 1.6 million students have received help from the HOPE Scholarship since the lottery's inception.

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