Teachers’ union backs more gambling

The Oklahoma House voted to end the mandatory 35 percent payment of the “Oklahoma Education Lottery” in the hopes that more Oklahomans will gamble.

Rep. Leslie Osborn and Sen. Kim David, R-Wagoner, believe that ending the requirement that 35 percent of the lottery revenue go to education will actually mean an increase in gambling money to public schools.

The lottery has not produced nearly as much as was projected when it was passed by state voters.

HB1837 would:

  1. End the requirement of 35 percent going to public education.
  2. Set a minimum payment of $50 million to schools each year.
  3. Target special programs if revenues ever rise above $50 million a year.

Ex-Gov. Brad Henry projected that the Oklahoma Lottery would produce $300,000,000.00 a year for public education. But since its beginnings in 2005, it has produced around $70 million a year. And those figures are declining, due in part to the proliferation of gambling in Oklahoma, which has 130 tribal casinos (and that figure is growing).

In fact, the lottery payments to education next year are expected to be 30 percent lower than 10 years ago with a net loss to education of about $25,000,000.00 over the next few years.

Even though the bill means a lower percentage, it has been endorsed by the Oklahoma Education Association (teachers union), Tulsa Public Schools, Oklahoma City Public Schools, Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, Oklahoma Parents and Teachers Association and others.

The strategy behind HB 1837 is that if the lottery doesn’t have to give 35 percent to education, it can offer bigger payouts and encourage more people to gamble more. With more and more Oklahomans gambling, more money theoretically would go to public schools.

“This is a proven method other states have used to get more lottery funds to education, and we are proud of the House for supporting education with this bill,” said Oklahoma State School Boards Association Executive Director Shawn Hime.