All four trustees of the Oklahoma Lottery Commission last week repeated their request that lawmakers remove a requirement that 35% of lottery revenues go to education so they can increase prize payouts to generate additional lottery sales. Increased sales in turn would generate an overall increase in money for education, they said.

Trustee chairman Bill Paul said it is hard to understand why Oklahoma would continue to mandate a profit restriction when the need for education funding continues to grow each year. 

“Just recently I have read several stories in the press about the funding crisis facing Oklahoma schools,” Paul said. “I am hopeful that the Oklahoma Legislature will act favorably in removing the 35% profit restriction from the Lottery Act so that Oklahoma can begin to realize some of the benefits that have been achieved in other lottery states that either don’t have a profit restriction or have had them removed.”

Lottery executive director Jim Scroggins said the higher payout would force him to cut expenses by $1.4 million and reduce prizes, which he said would result in lower sales.

Scroggins said Oklahoma’s prize payout for lottery games averages 52%, the lowest in the United States.

Oklahoma lottery officials invited Leo DiBenigno, secretary of the Florida lottery, to discuss that state’s experiences.

DiBenigno said after Florida lawmakers removed the state’s profit mandate, lottery sales increased to about $2.2 billion last year.

“With these profit restrictions removed, we are projecting profits from our scratcher games to be about $235 million higher this fiscal year than they were in 2002,” DiBenigno said. “In the six years that Florida has had flexible prize authority, the lottery has generated $822 million more for education from its scratcher product than would have been generated under the pre-2002 set percentage restrictions.” 

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