Opposing sides to Oklahoma's proposed lottery speak out at a forum in Tulsa

Tuesday, October 19th 2004, 11:06 am
By: News On 6

A state lottery question goes to Oklahoma voters in November for the third time in recent memory.

The money would help education and polls show it has a decent chance of passing this time. People on both sides of the controversial issue talked to News on 6 reporter Steve Berg.

The opponents say not only will the lottery not help education, it will hurt it. Supporters say if the lottery is so bad, why do so many states have one? Just across the border in Kansas, they line up to buy lottery tickets. Will Oklahoma get in line?

State Representative Forrest Claunch[pictured left] from Midwest City hopes not. He's spent years fighting the idea of a state lottery. Saying that in other states, studies show that non-lottery sources for education funding went down and that in Florida, school bond proposals that once passed easily were defeated. "They discovered they could only pass four or nine of the next bond issues they ran in the state, because the people in exit polls said, 'well we were told that the lottery would take care of education."

The question has some safeguards to prevent the lawmakers from using lottery money to replace other education money. But Claunch says because it's not a constitutional mandate, it can change easily. "State Question 705 is a statute; the legislature can change statute at any time in any way."

But lobbyist and lottery supporter Pat Hall[pictured right] says the best protection comes through voters, who he believes will keep a close eye on the legislature. "Any legislature that messes with the lottery money that takes away from education is going to suffer at the ballot box, that's not a threat, that's a promise from the people."

Hall also stressed that gambling is already here in one form or another, but that right now, it's not going to education. He also stressed that nearly every state bordering Oklahoma has a lottery and they get a lot of their lottery players from Oklahoma. "Missouri, New Mexico, Kansas, Texas all have lotteries; all of those states hope that on November 5 and November 6 that you vote no."

If the courts decide the lottery opens the door for casino-type gaming, it would be terminated. The lottery hasn't had much luck in the past, but polls show it has about 60% support this time around.