COLUMBUS, Ohio — A key state lawmaker thinks the Ohio Lottery could do more to raise money for Ohio schools to help off-set funding cuts due to the coronavirus crisis.
State Sen. Bill Coley, a Butler County Republican, in a Friday letter to lottery officials said that in the past, the state has turned to the lottery to raise money during tough economic times. For example, lottery officials in 2008 began offering Keno, a gambling kiosk that could be set up at bars and restaurants and in 2010, added slot machines at state-licensed racetracks, he said.
Coley said in an interview the Ohio Lottery could raise money for school funding by taxing sports betting, if a legalization bill that’s currently pending before the state legislature ever passes. Legalizing and taxing sports betting could raise an estimated $15 million to $20 million annually, according to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, although that’s a relatively paltry sum compared to the $300 million in K-12 state funding cuts Gov. Mike DeWine announced last month.
But even without sports betting, Coley said the lottery could do more, like offering mobile games or even just mobile promotions.
“When you study stuff like this worldwide like I do, there’s just so much they could do,” said Coley, who’s been a point person in the state legislature on gambling policy issues in the past. “And I’m hearing crickets from them.”
The Ohio Lottery has taken recent steps to increase sales, like strategic marketing initiatives, expanding its loyalty program and letting people cash out winnings with their mobile device, lottery spokesperson Danielle Frizzi-Babb said in an email.
“As we have always done in the past, we are happy to continue conversations with the Legislature and the Administration on ways the Lottery can come up with additional innovative ideas to help raise profits for education in Ohio,” she said.
Ohio Lottery Commission Director Pat McDonald said at a commission meeting in April that iLottery — the agency’s name for a mobile and online platform — could be one option as lottery staff study ways to make more money for education.
The Lottery Commission proposed iLottery last year, but the initiative has gotten bogged down amid the larger debate about expanding gambling in Ohio through sports betting and other related issues.
The lottery raised $1.15 billion for its state education fund last year, setting a record for the seventh time in eight years. Ohioans were on track to lose a record amount of money playing the lottery once again this year.
But like other parts of the state economy, lottery revenues fell after DeWine ordered businesses closed in March to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, revenues didn’t fall as drastically as other areas of the state economy.
In April, the first full month of coronavirus restrictions ticket sales were $264.2 million, or 4.6% lower than in April 2019. But scratch-off games and Pick 3 ticket sales were actually up, while revenues from draw-based games and Keno, which generally is played in bars and restaurants, were down.
Read recent related coverage:
Ohio House passes bill legalizing sports betting
Sales up for some Ohio Lottery games during coronavirus crisis
Ohio Lottery has biggest year yet, with $1.15 billion profit for state’s education fund
Ohio Lottery eyeing launch of mobile and online ‘iLottery’ games
Credit: Source link