Oklahoma lottery officials get little backing for proposal

Oklahoma lottery officials would like to eliminate or reduce the requirement that 35 percent of profits go to education. Lowering the profit margin would allow the lottery to increase prizes, which would generate more sales and increase money going to education, they say.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: January 29, 2013 at 9:12 pm •  Published: January 30, 2013
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State law requires 35 percent of lottery earnings go to public schools, higher education, the teachers retirement system and the school consolidation fund. Latest estimates show education will receive $64.3 million this fiscal year from the lottery.

Overall earnings for the lottery are projected to be about $183.6 million for this fiscal year, which is down from $199.9 million a year ago.

Earnings for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1, are projected at $168 million; education's share is estimated at $58.8 million.

Increasing operating expenses, along with the state requirement that 35 percent of Oklahoma lottery earnings go to education, have reduced the amount of prize money and the frequency of winnings for the Oklahoma lottery games, Redburn said. Sales of instant tickets, also called Scratchers, are declining mostly because the prizes haven't increased, he said.

If the 35 percent requirement could be lowered, lottery officials would introduce games with better payouts, which would improve sales and profits, he said.

“The existing minimum profit requirement restricts our ability to do that,” he said.

Redburn surprised committee members when he said the law approved by voters in 2004 setting up the lottery called for a legislative oversight committee. But the committee, to be made up of members from the House and Senate budget committees, never met, he said.

Kern said she would inquire into whether current budget committee members would meet to oversee the lottery's operations.

“We're talking about huge amounts of money here,” she said. “It's dereliction of duty to not take care of that.”

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