The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

4 April 2005

Getting even with the odds

The new Oklahoma lottery law earmarks 30 percent of the proceeds for education in the first two years of operation, increasing to 35 percent after that. The law also requires that at least 45 percent of the proceeds be paid out in prizes.

And that's the problem, says Tennessee lottery president Rebecca Graham Powell, consulting to Oklahoma lottery officials: most states are paying out 50 to 55 percent, which makes the Oklahoma lotto look like a comparatively bad bet. And to match that 55 percent with 35 percent still going into the education fund, costs will have to be cut to the bare minimum.

Oklahoma lottery chairman James Orbison recognizes the issue:

Just looking around at other lotteries, you just almost have to have that kind of percentage across the board. The public is amazingly savvy about which products have the best odds, and if they think they can go across the border to Texas and get a better deal, they will, I'm sure.

Still, Orbison isn't running scared:

In a way, it's almost kind of good. I like the idea of having to be creative on costs. That's one good thing about having these strict parameters — it forces you to do the best you can.

The first scratch-off cards are expected this fall, with online games and multi-state games to follow over the next year.

Posted at 7:37 AM to Soonerland