While the people of Oklahoma voted in favor of a statewide lottery in 2004, it has consistently failed to produce the amount of education revenue supporters had claimed it would. That’s why Sen. John Ford, who represents Craig, Nowata and Washington Counties, has filed legislation that could result in the privatization of the lottery.
“I did not support the lottery, and I’ve never bought a single Oklahoma Lottery ticket, but in 2004, the majority of voters said this is what they wanted and I respect that,” Ford said. “However, many people voted yes believing it would result in a large boost for education funding. We all know that hasn’t happened. Since the lottery is now a reality that has been mandated by the citizens of Oklahoma, perhaps at the very least, we should look at privatization as a way to run the lottery more efficiently, and get the government out of the gambling business.”
Ford’s legislation calls for the creation of an eight-person Oklahoma Lottery Asset Review Board to be chaired by the Lt. Governor, and would include the Attorney General, the State Treasurer, the Chancellor for Higher Education, the State Superintendent of Education, the Career Tech’s executive director, as well as appointees by the Senate Pro Tempore and the Speaker of the House. The panel would have the responsibility to examine options for privatizing the lottery. Ford said the commission would expire by December 31, 2008.
The board would be charged with studying various options and defining what provisions must be included in a privatization agreement to maximize potential income to education, Ford said. The Oklahoma Asset Review Board would then seek bids from approved private sector companies or other private entities through a competitive and fully transparent process.
“When the bids are returned, it will be the responsibility of the board to determine if any of the bids will enhance the value to education while still meeting the intent of our citizens when creating the education lottery,” Ford said.
If six of the eight board members agree on a winning bid, they will forward it to the Governor for his review and potential final approval. The Governor would then have 14 days to approve the bid. The lottery would then be transferred to out of state operations and awarded to the private operator under the terms and conditions of the agreement. If the Governor does not approve the recommended bid, the lottery will continue under its current state management and operation.
Ford also strongly emphasized that the state must always maintain ongoing oversight of the lottery so that failure to meet the predetermined concession terms and standards will result in Oklahoma revoking the lottery from the concessionaire.
If approved, all net proceeds from the concession will be deposited into the Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund, as is the case today. Ford emphasized that this bill does not change the current distribution percentages out of this fund that are currently in effect.