Oklahoma's Lottery And Funding Public Education

Monday, September 21st 2009, 7:37 am
By: News On 6


TULSA, OK -- Some in Oklahoma say education and the Oklahoma Lottery are not paying off.

Right now, 35 percent of lottery sales go to education.

State Lottery officials say that affects sales and cuts into the amount of money going to state schools and colleges. But state lawmakers disagree.

Oklahoma Lottery officials think more people would come to places like this in hopes of cashing in, if the prizes were higher. But to do that, lottery officials want to slash the 35 percent that's now mandated for education.

Officials say dropping the percentage would free up money for prizes, increase sales and education dollars.

9/18/2009 Related story: Why Isn't Lottery Money Helping Oklahoma Schools?

Here's where it stands right now. The Oklahoma Lottery has raised $300 million for education since it began in October of 2005, but originally it was supposed to make as much as $300 million a year.

Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry has pointed out how off base the Oklahoma Lottery Commission's projections have been.

In 2008, the lottery contributed $69.2 million and so far in 2009, $66.7 million for education.

State lawmakers want to keep the mandate, especially since Oklahoma has a budget shortfall. It's cutting agency funding by 5 percent across the board. Education is a big piece of that pie and state lawmakers say the lottery is needed now more than ever.

The Oklahoma Lottery Commission thinks those opposing their idea just want the lottery to fail. They say cutting the mandate would help the lottery compete with nearby states like Arkansas, but right now it's unclear how slashing the mandate would better serve education.