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Will lotteries fill federal-state funding gap for the arts?

Supporters of alternative funding for the arts in Massachusetts have passed a controversial law setting up a weekly "arts lottery." Massachusetts is the first state to set up such a lottery. But other states may follow suit as budget cuts trim government funding for the arts.

The lottery already has run into opposition.

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The board of selectmen in the small town of Carlisle, for instance, has refused to participate.

"We got a letter informing us of the lottery and asking us to appoint a committee to administer and make applications," says board chairman Patricia S. Cutter. "We voted unanimously not to. We basically do not support a Massachusetts lottery to raise money. We also felt that being a small town we probably wouldn't derive much benefit anyway."

Sculptress Mags Harries voices another concern -- that a lottery with tickets priced at a minimum of $5 probably won't work.

The chairman of the Arts Lotter Council appointed by Massachusetts Gov. Edward King, says small towns across the state are showing great enthusiasm.

The National Endowment for the Arts gave out $154.4 million in grants last year. But it is fighting to get a 3 percent increase in next year's budget -- which does not keep up with inflation.

Lottery supporters say a fewer fundraising volunteers and a lack of support for community arts projects make alternative sources of support a necessity. They see a lottery as one of those sources.

But, asks one official at the National Endowment for the ARts, "Is it going to take money from ordinary state appropriations [for the arts] so that the arts will have to rely on a lottery, which is not particularly reliable in terms of the amount of money it will generate each year?"

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