- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin’s lottery director plans to step down later this month after more than a dozen years on the job.

Mike Edmonds sent a message to his staff on Nov. 12 announcing that his last day will be Dec. 18. He did not say why he was leaving. Instead, he touted the growth of ticket sales since he took over, despite competition from video poker, fantasy sports and pull-tabs.

“Never, ever, give up the fun. Thanks,” Edmonds wrote.

Edmonds didn’t immediately respond to phone and email messages from The Associated Press on Wednesday. Asked why Edmonds chose to step down, lottery spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said in an email that political appointees get moved around and replaced. She didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up email asking her to elaborate.

Michael Morgan, secretary of the state Department of Revenue in Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration, appointed Edmonds as lottery director in 2003. Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, didn’t immediately respond to an email inquiring about whether Walker’s administration decided to replace Edmonds.

Lottery ticket sales have risen in recent years after stagnating during the recession. Sales grew from $481 million in fiscal year 2009-10 to $569 million in 2013-14, according to reports state auditors. Ticket sales rang in at $574 million for the year that ended this past June 30, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The Wisconsin Constitution requires the lottery to distribute net proceeds as property tax relief. Since the lottery began in 1988 it has provided $3.7 billion in such relief through 2013-14, according to the audit bureau.

That hasn’t made much of a dent in the average property tax bill, however. According to the fiscal bureau, the average lottery credit was $94 on bills payable in 2013, when the property tax on a median-valued home was $3,344. The average lottery credit was $113 for bills payable in 2014, when the average tax bill was $3,342, according to the fiscal bureau. The average credit is expected to ring in at about $110 for bills payable in 2016.

Critics have contended that the lottery hasn’t lived up to grand predictions of lucrative property tax relief. State Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, complained in 2013 that people sold the lottery as a major tax cut but it hasn’t delivered. He didn’t immediately return a telephone message left at his office in the state Capitol on Wednesday.

Todd Berry, president of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, said the lottery provides around a 1 percent reduction in the average taxpayer’s bill.

“Lotteries are not growth industries. Their natural state is slow decline and the only way you can prop them up is continuing to have new games … and unusually large jackpots that pull in the very occasional player,” Berry said. “If the goal of the lottery is to provide property tax relief, it’s not providing a large return anymore, if it ever did.”


Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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