Governor's Race And The Oklahoma Lottery

Monday, November 6th 2006, 10:39 am
By: News On 6

When Oklahoma votes for governor Tuesday, Brad Henry is betting on a big win.

Henry leads Ernest Istook in every statewide poll. But one issue Henry championed could divide those who elected him the first time around.

News on 6 anchor Terry Hood asks the candidates about Oklahoma's lottery.

Since the lottery began last October, plenty of Oklahomans have hit the jackpot, but Brad Henry says the big winner is Oklahoma's education budget. "The lottery is a big success, frankly. It is a fun and voluntary way to provide money for education. That's what it's designed to do. It's produced tens of millions of dollars." Ernest Istook: "To call it a success, you'd have to be bringing in $300-million a year, what Brad Henry promised it was going to be bringing in, and it's only bringing in a small fraction of that."

In its first year, the lottery has put more than $86-million in a trust fund for Oklahoma schools. Ernest Istook says that money's not worth the problems it's paid for. "Mortgage foreclosures have gone up 45% in the past year in Oklahoma, since Brad Henry's lottery and Brad Henry's casino have been operating as they have been. You also see food stamps in Oklahoma have reached an all-time high. Brad Henry wants to pretend that everything is wonderful, and not talk about the bad side, the shadowy side that he's brought to Oklahoma through the expansion of gambling."

Governor Brad Henry: "Oklahomans were already paying, playing the lottery. We're keeping those dollars in the state." Henry says he pushed for the lottery and expanded gaming to raise money for education, support the state's horse industry, and to tap a growing gambling industry. "I wanted to get a handle on this burgeoning tribal gaming out there and share in some of the revenues.”

Henry says for the first time, funds have been set aside for the treatment and education of compulsive gamblers. Whatever the benefit, Istook says the lottery is a game the state can't afford to play.

Brad Henry's a Baptist and pushed for the lottery despite an outcry from Oklahoma Baptist congregations. He says he promised the state a vote on the lottery and delivered. Henry says he'll now support what Oklahoma wants.