“Nationally, lottery comes up short” (ScissorTales, July 28) provided a reasonable explanation regarding lottery sales in Oklahoma. While your opinion didn't strike me as critical, rather as informative, I'd like to add a couple of things.
First, the Oklahoma Education Lottery was approved by an overwhelming majority as a method of providing additional funding for Oklahoma education programs. That's why the lottery exists under Oklahoma laws. The lottery has provided such funding and expects to reach the $500 million mark early this fall. That's half a billion dollars that education would not have otherwise gotten. Our statutory mandate is to maximize profits for education.
Second, given the environment in which the lottery operates, it's performed amazingly well. Several things negatively affect funding provided to education by the lottery. The state's partnership with the more than 100 tribal casino locations, which have benefits for the tribes and the state, is competition for the entertainment dollars of our players. The lottery isn't allowed to sell in locations that are typically successful lottery retailers, such as liquor stores. Players aren't allowed to use debit cards, which most players carry in lieu of cash, to make lottery purchases.
The single-most restrictive factor faced by the lottery is the requirement to produce a 35 percent profit every year. The lottery has reduced the number of staff and has reduced operating expenses and advertising expenses in order to increase earnings for Oklahoma education programs. However, this 35 percent profit restriction actually reduces the amount of money provided for education.
Requiring a 35 percent profit reduces the amount that can be dedicated to prizes, lowering the appeal of the tickets, sales and the actual amount of profit provided for education. In one sense, the question becomes “Would you rather provide education with $65 million at 35 percent, or would you rather provide education $75 million at 28 percent?”
Increased lottery funding for education can be realized by simply modifying provisions in current law. These changes would subsequently allow the lottery to better fulfill its statutory mandate to maximize profits for Oklahoma education.
Redburn is executive director of the Oklahoma Lottery Commission.