If Gambling Is a Problem, Who Is Responsible?

CascadeNewLogoBy John A. Charles, Jr.

Governor Kate Brown opposes a plan by the Coquille Indian Tribe to build a casino in Medford.

In her public statement, the Governor said she opposes the addition of any more casinos because “even a single additional casino is likely to lead to significant efforts to expand gaming across Oregon to the detriment of the public welfare.”

Her concern for the public welfare is touching, but if one simply “follows the money” associated with the state’s own gambling franchise—the Oregon Lottery—it’s clear that the Governor has little regard for the health of Oregon citizens.

The Oregon Lottery is a state-run monopoly using a network of 3,939 retailers to offer players a wide choice of games, including Scratch-its, Keno, Powerball, Win for Life, Mega Millions, Lucky Lines, and Pick 4.

In addition, the Lottery has approximately 11,925 Video Lottery terminals deployed throughout the state. These terminals accounted for 71.5% of total sales in 2015 and are highly addictive. According to the Oregon Health Authority, roughly 90% of problem gambling in Oregon is associated with Lottery video machines.

In 2015, Oregon earned $1.2 billion from the state Lottery. In January, Powerball mania resulted in record sales of $36 million in one week. An Oregon Lottery spokesman said, “Any time sales go up, that’s a good thing for our beneficiaries.”

Who are these beneficiaries? By law, 57% of net Lottery revenues support public education. Activities loosely defined as “economic development” get 27%. State parks and salmon enhancement programs split 15% of revenues.

Those activities account for 99% of all Lottery funds. The last 1% gets allocated for problem gambling. The state estimates that 81,800 adults and 4,000 adolescents have a gambling addiction.

If Governor Brown were so interested in the “public welfare,” she would be advocating for an increase in the percent of Lottery funds dedicated to the 86,000 problem gamblers. This would at least give her some moral high ground to stand on before criticizing a casino proposed by the Coquille Tribe.

But despite total control of the legislative process by the Democratic Party, the Governor has not made this a priority.

Oregon’s misuse of tobacco tax money is even more egregious. Oregon was one of 44 states that sued the tobacco industry in the mid-1990s regarding the health care costs associated with smoking. As a result of a Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the four largest tobacco manufacturers, each state was to receive payments every year from 1998 through 2025.

According to the plaintiffs, MSA money was supposed to be used for tobacco prevention activities and health care subsidies necessary to treat smoking illnesses, but that was not a formal part of the agreement. Thus, each state was free to use the funds in whatever way its state legislature approved.

In Oregon, total MSA funds received since 1998 equal $1.26 billion—yet only 0.8% of the money has been used for tobacco prevention activities.

The Governor’s hypocrisy associated with the use of tobacco and gambling profits is embarrassing. She should clean up her own house before she starts lecturing any of the Tribes about their casino expansion plans.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization. This article originally appeared in The Coos Bay World on May 24, 2016.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Economy, Education, Ethics, Gov. Kate Brown, Health & Human Services, Leadership, Oregon Government, Oregon Lottery, Political Correctness, State Budget, State Government, State Taxes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    Brown is actually much more corrupt than bungling resigned governor Kitzhaber. Brown is all about expansion of total control by public employee unions and green carpet bagging profiteers over the lives of all Oregonians and their paychecks and accumulated wealth. Kitzhaber respected the limits of the public takings process, trying to make sure the host body the private sector economy did not bleed to such extent it’s ability to feed public takings became impaired.

    It was a really bad day when bungling Kitzhaber resigned, giving Brown the Governor’s office.

    • Stripper Out Unceremoniously

      The PER$pattern-moneyious buy sexual governor has no close butt to continue in existential confounded misdemeanor.

  • MaxRedline

    The carpet-bagger doesn’t care about the addicts, and she doesn’t care about the jobs that the Coquille project would bring to economically depressed southern Oregon. It’s all about keeping that cash.

  • thevillageidiot

    This is contrary to Kitz’s upholding the rights of the Indian Tribes to hold the monopoly to casinos. well at least that is something in the right direction for Kate. (pun intended). but why should any government prevent gambling of any nature? we bet on the horses, the dogs, the pigs, (state fair all in fun) and yet groups of investors cannot build casinos for the investors benefit. any casinos built off the reservation would be subject to taxation (dept of revenue) and would probably ,make up any “loss” of lottery income. Although I am personally in favor of the poor paying their fair share of taxes through the lottery. And I think that private casinos would provide lots of income to the state from all the rich retirees instead of giving it all to the tribes.

  • Stomp the Abominacles Out NOW

    Voting Nestle’ out from carpetbagging the Cascade Locks arena was a right step.
    Now whether it be Cascade Locks or Medford: Build local tribe casinos and inevitable monies well-come.
    Indeed, even a private sector cashino in Wood Village-tillage bring more thousands of dollars than assay a Portland Pickles…Lents go with it onsite.
    As fodder the Oregon Lottery, the state’s appetite is insatiable until the PERS doors are shut tighter and private sector common sensors to cull the d’nonsense, even denying COLA’s still unavailable to private sector task payers prevalent.

  • Cowlitz Illani Muse

    Come next spring, cruising over the bridges to revenue pastures at La Center, WA will appear even keener, leaving Oregon stash trays appearing even leaner than a shriveled O-Meyer wiener.

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