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Senate OKs debit cards for lottery tickets

SANTA FE — A plan to beef up New Mexico’s state-run lottery cleared the Senate today, though critics of the measure warned it could end up stifling dollars for a lottery-funded scholarship program.

Senators voted 25-16 to approve the legislation, which would allow debit cards — but not credit cards — to be used to purchase lottery tickets. Such lottery ticket purchases could eventually be made at gas pumps.

Backers of the measures said it could lead to increased ticket sales and larger prize amounts, which could in turn bolster the cash-strapped lottery scholarship fund.

“It if does work out, it’s only going to be for the benefit of the lottery,” said Senate Minority Whip Bill Payne, R-Albuquerque. “I think we certainly need to give it a try, because we’ve got nothing to lose at this point in the game.”

However, opponents described the legislation as risky, saying it could mean more money for New Mexico Lottery executives and less money for students.

That’s because the Senate-approved measure would also eliminate a 2007 requirement that at least 30 percent of lottery revenue be funneled into the lottery scholarship program, though it would stipulate that lottery funding amounts could not decrease from current levels.

“Our primary objective of the lottery should be to help our students attend college,” said Sen. Cisco McSorley, an Albuquerque Democrat.

The measure, Senate Bill 355, now advances to the House of Representatives.