Lottery officials want education's percentage 'to just go away'
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Sunday, June 24, 2012
6/24/12 at 8:25 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Lottery officials say they would like to offer $10 and $20 instant scratch-off tickets with larger prizes, but that is not feasible.
The state requires that 35 cents of every dollar in lottery ticket sales go to education, which Oklahoma Lottery Commission Executive Director Rollo Redburn said limits the size of prizes.
The lottery offers "scratcher" tickets ranging in price from $1 to $5. Picks in the various drawing games such as Powerball and Megamillions cost $1.
"We want to eliminate the 35 percent," Redburn said. "We want it to just go away."
If the restriction were eliminated, the agency would give all of its profits to education, he said.
"That percentage does nothing to benefit education," Redburn said. "That percentage restricts the profit we can make for education, so what is the point in having it?"
Larger prizes and increased sales that would result from elimination of the requirement would bring in more money for education, he said.
But lawmakers have steadfastly refused to make the change. In the last five or six years, bills to change the requirement have not made it out of committee in the Legislature, Redburn said.
"They don't support the lottery," he said. "They don't support gambling. So, they don't want to be seen as helping."
Lottery officials plan to spend more time at the Capitol next legislative session, establishing relationships and trying to make a case for elimination of the 35 percent threshold, he said.
A top prize on the current top-priced $5 scratch-off ticket might range from $35,000 to $50,000, said Jay Finks, Oklahoma Lottery Commission marketing director.
A minimum top prize on a $10 scratch-off ticket would be $100,000, Finks said.
"The odds of winning on a $10 ticket are much better," Finks said.
Offering $10 and $20 tickets with larger prizes would bring new players into the game, Finks said.
"There are people who don't play," Finks said. "They don't view the $1 ticket as a good investment when they play."
"We certainly don't think playing the lottery is an investment," Redburn said. "People that want to gamble would rather put their money into something they think they are more likely to win on."
Oklahoma voters in 2004 approved the creation of the lottery.
By October, the lottery, since inception, is projecting to have generated $500 million for common education.
Original Print Headline: Lottery officials seek requirement's end
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Illustration for Lottery and Education on May 11, 2012. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World