Oklahoma lottery rule change sought to keep from cutting prizes

Oklahoma lottery trustees approve a rule to reduce the amount of money paid to retailers to prepare for an anticipated increase in gaming vendor contracts. Without the rule, money available for prizes would be reduced. The rule change now will be reviewed by the governor and the Legislature.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: March 20, 2013
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Lottery trustees have asked lawmakers for years to remove the 35 percent cap, saying it would allow the lottery to offer larger prizes on its various games. The larger prizes would increase ticket sales, which would result in more money going to education.

GOP opposition

Republicans mostly opposed the lottery and were in the minority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate when voters approved a constitutional change in 2004 allowing the lottery in Oklahoma. Republicans now have a 2-1 advantage in both chambers. Legislative leaders have said they don't want to approve legislation that would increase gambling in the state.

Trustee James Orbison said he is aggravated that lawmakers are unwilling to improve lottery sales, which would mean more money for education. The lottery in the 2012 fiscal year earned $70 million for the state out of total sales of $200 million; that contrasts with the $123.9 million paid to the state that same year by the 33 tribes that have 116 gaming venues — 114 casinos and two racinos — out of gross gaming revenue of an estimated $3.2 billion.

“When the state's receiving less than 7 percent under the compacts … from gaming and we're responsible for paying 35 percent by contract, which limits us from making more money for everybody, just doesn't seem fair,” he said. “The two don't jive.”

Orbison said he believes the 65 percent of Oklahomans who voted for the lottery in 2004 want the games to be successful.

“Why would anybody who voted yes for the lottery not want a law changed that increases the payouts on their lottery tickets and increases revenue to education when it's run by a lottery commission with an incredible low overhead?” he asked. “You know they would say yes. Why doesn't our Legislature reflect that?”