VIDEO POKER CUT REASONABLE AS FIRST STEP
The commission the Oregon Lottery pays to retailers of video poker has been the subject of debate the past couple of months. The state has been paying a 32 percent commission to retailers. Last week the Oregon Lottery Commission voted to reduce the commission to 28.8 percent, a 10 percent drop. The new rate takes effect in June. The contract runs six years and will result in an additional $111 million for the state.
No one, it seems, is happy with the Lottery Commission's decision. The retailers feel they have been undercut. Some state officials and educators believe the lottery should be contributing more to schools.
Oregon Lottery Director Brenda Rocklin has come under fire for scaling back a proposal that would have resulted in more revenue for the state and less revenue for retailers. That nearly a third of the video poker take has been going to retailers is significant.
A 32 percent return is a healthy commission too healthy considering the financial crisis the state is in. But to have scaled back the proposal more than 10 percent would have been too much for the retailers who run the games to bear at one time.
Video poker retailers have said the commissions contribute to being able to employ more staff, providing benefits for workers and keeping prices down. The Oregon Restaurant Association has aggressively lobbied for maintaining the status quo because of the impact a cut would have on the 2,000 establishments that offer lottery games.
But Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, and Steve Novick, a leading lottery critic, have said the commissions paid to retailers need to be scaled back because of what the additional revenue would mean for education, parks and salmon
"It's a tragedy when the largest special interest group in Oregon has more sway with the Lottery Commission than the school kids of Oregon,'' Bradbury said in response to the Lottery Commission's decision to cut the retailers' share of the proceeds.
Rocklin, the lottery director, said the change is a "fair deal for the state and for retailers.''
To have cut the commission any more in one fell swoop would have been unfair to those who have provided the outlets that entice gamblers to chip in to the state coffers. Over the next six years, the lottery commission will be able to gauge any significant drops in volume for video poker revenues as a result of this action. Some bar and tavern owners say they may have to cut back their hours of operation. They argue that the state may make less money on video poker as a result.
Clearly, both sides on this debate are unhappy with the result. That usually means a fair compromise was struck. We commend Rocklin and the Lottery Commission for taking a measured approach on this highly-charged, difficult issue.
Editorials in this column are the opinion of The Observer's editorial board. The board is comprised of Ron Horton, publisher; Ted Kramer, editor; Jeff Petersen, news editor; and Pierre LaBossierre, wire editor. Letters from readers, signed columns on this page and cartoons represent the opinions of the writer/artist and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial board.