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Oklahoma Lottery Renews Call to Cut Education Funding Requirement

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Oklahoma Lottery
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The Oklahoma Lottery is again asking lawmakers for its education funding requirement to be decreased.

Since the Oklahoma Lottery began, 35 percent of its annual gross revenues have gone to an education trust fund. Executive Director Rollo Redburn said North Carolina’s lottery also started with a 35 percent requirement.

"Their legislature removed it the first year they were in operation, and their sales — I mean, they've just been astronomical," Redburn said. "They've done a great job on providing funds for their education beneficiary by removing that profit requirement."

Redburn said a lower requirement would allow the lottery to put more money into prizes. If that encouraged more people to play, the Oklahoma Lottery could contribute more actual dollars to education funding.

Redburn also told lawmakers the lottery's contributions are disproportional.

"Essentially, a dollar that's wagered at the lottery, you get 35 cents now," Redburn said. "Under my lottery world, you'd get about 27 cents of that dollar. Under the casino, you're never going to get more than two cents for every dollar that's wagered."

Lottery funding for education was $66.4 million in fiscal year 2016. It peaked at $71.6 million in 2008.

Redburn said the lottery also gives a disproportionate share of funding to Oklahoma’s efforts to help people with a gambling problem.

"They have about one person a year that identifies lottery as being where they are having trouble," Redburn said. "So, we're providing $750,000 a year to deal with problem gambling, which I am more than happy to do. You get $250,000 from tribal casino operations, which really account for the majority of the problems."

Redburn said competition from casinos is hurting the lottery’s bottom line, though Power Ball drove an increase in sales in fiscal year 2016 from 2015.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.