Thank you for “Let citizens decide if lottery payout plan should change” (Our Views, Dec. 10). I enjoyed your approach regarding the two different subjects and the similarities in current proposals. I would like to address some of your comments about the lottery.
All Lottery profit is for Oklahoma education. The current 35 percent profit requirement restricts the funding for education by restricting prize payouts, resulting in lower sales and profits. Case studies of other lotteries present a compelling case that relief from such requirements, allowing increased prize payouts, will substantially increase sales and profits. The North Carolina lottery started sales within six months of the Oklahoma lottery startup. The North Carolina lottery also had a 35 percent requirement. The North Carolina legislature granted profit relief in September 2007. Profits grew 45 percent between fiscal year 2007 and FY 2012. There are other examples showing similar results.
The editorial said voters approved the lottery and the payout formula, and, “Changing the formula is best done by the people, not by legislative fiat.” The people of this great state approved two lottery-related state questions. One established in our constitution a trust fund, including the purposes for which it is to be used. Any changes would have to go to the people. The second question established the statutory Lottery Act which can be changed by the politicians we send to the Capitol to address such issues.
The act has been amended in every legislative session since the inception of the lottery except for 2009. It has been modified 18 times in 11 separate pieces of legislation. The current proposal provides more funding for education and while the people always have the option to change Oklahoma law, it is a long process and the longer we wait, the more funding our education programs lose. The Legislature has demonstrated it is fully capable of addressing statutory concerns now, as was intended when the lottery laws were initially approved.
The editorial points out that the lottery has reduced operating expenses and staff to help maximize earnings for education and “will reduce the percentage retailers that sell lottery tickets get to keep.” The lottery has reduced staff from 38 to 28 and has cut most expenses. The commission paid to retailers has been protected for several years, but there is little left to cut except prizes. Cutting prizes will reduce sales and profits. Our intention is that by reducing the percentage paid to retailers, and protecting prizes as much as possible, we can protect sales and minimize actual dollar decreases to our retail partners. Changing the commission rate requires a rule change that goes to the governor and the Legislature; the lottery cannot simply change it.
These changes are intended to provide more funding for our education programs. We should encourage our leaders to consider them.
Redburn is executive director of the Oklahoma Lottery Commission.