Promoting Gambling

Bill cuts school portion

Sen. Kim David, R-Wagoner, and Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, want to boost education funding by having Oklahomans gamble more.

David and Osborn are worried because the state lottery is not producing nearly as much revenue for public education as anticipated.

House Bill 1837, by House Appropriations Chairwoman Osborn and Senate Appropriations Chairwoman David, seeks to cut the percentage of lottery money that goes to education in the hopes  lottery can offer bigger prizes. The bill’s authors believe it will encourage more people in Oklahoma to gamble on the lottery.

Osborn and David believe the bill would finally help lottery officials achieve the revenue that was promised when the lottery was enacted. Ex-Gov. Brad Henry, a liberal Democrat, had promised that the lottery would bring in $300 million a year for public schools. “Education gets more than $100 million in new lottery money if this legislation passes. This is by no means an end-all, be-all school funding solution, but it is an achievable way to get more money to schools even in a tough budget year,” said Osborn, R-Mustang.

The Oklahoma Lottery has sent less than $70 million a year on average to education since it began in 2005.  Its performance has been declining – particularly in comparison to other state lotteries. Lottery officials have repeatedly approached lawmakers to lessen the percentage of revenue handed over to schools.

Oklahoma Lottery revenue to education peaked at $71.6 million in Fiscal Year 2008, but has declined since. If HB 1837 is not passed, the Oklahoma Lottery projects those declines will continue and that education will lose a combined $25 million in lottery funding over the next five years.

HB 1837 takes these steps:

  1. It guarantees at least $50 million in lottery revenue for education every year.
  2. Send profits above $50 million to specific K-12 public school initiatives.
  3. It ends the mandate that 35 percent of profits go to education.

“The bill makes sure lottery revenues to education not only never fall below next year’s baseline, but grow over time by generating stronger lottery sales to send more funds to education,” said Oklahoma Lottery Executive Director Rollo Redburn.

The Oklahoma Lottery lags behind other state lotteries in per capita sales, coming in at $44 per capita. The national lottery sales average is $216 per capita. Many states don’t place percentage requirements on lottery revenues like Oklahoma does. That percentage requirement was a key factor in the statewide approval of the lottery in 2005.

“The dynamics are pretty simple: When Oklahoma Lottery sales slow, education gets less, and when we improve sales under this bill, education gets more,” Redburn said.