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Parrish questions 'excessive' lottery ad budget

New bill would increase funding for public awareness campaigns


ParrishFor as ubiquitous as Oregon Lottery logos are, it struck state Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn, Tualatin) as odd that the Oregon State Lottery’s advertising budget was $26.6 million allotted for a two-year period.

“The lottery has been around since I was a kid. I don’t think we need to advertise it,” Parrish said. “There’s no other competitor on the market — it’s not like you’re trying to sell laundry detergent.”

Parrish was disappointed to find that only about 10 percent of that advertising budget — $2.9 million — was spent on publicizing the dangers of gambling addiction and treatment resources for problem gamblers.

Parrish’s House Bill 3377, which addresses what she feels is a bloated lottery marketing budget, passed through the House Human Services and Housing Committee and was referred to the state House Ways and Means Committee on Friday.

An amendment to the bill caps the amount of money the state Lottery Commission can spend on advertising at 0.5 percent of total state lottery proceeds in a two-year period, which Parrish believes would free up considerable lottery revenue for other state programs.

That would require some adjustment to the projected advertising budget for the coming fiscal year, which at $8.5 million, is about 1 percent of the expected $853 million revenue.

“This is an opportunity to put about $10 million back in the budget,” Parrish said.

In addition, the Lottery Commission would be required to spend a fixed $4 million over the same period on advertising to bring public awareness to gambling addiction treatment programs.

Cutting the fat

“The lottery does do some good things, but it also causes some bad outcomes, and there is some personal responsibility in that,” Parrish said.

She emphasized that her primary focus during her tenure in the House has been to reduce spending. She attempted to address this more broadly by introducing the ultimately unsuccessful HB 4106, which would have cut state agency spending of the General Fund on expenses deemed “non-essential” — specifically, travel and meals, according to Parrish, last year.

This session, Parrish decided to “take a bite at an individual budget” — and the state lottery’s advertising budget struck her as particularly glaring.

“We just took it upon ourselves to look at those line-by-line transactions,” Parrish said. “Thematically, we saw big travel budgets, big advertising budgets, (expenses like) catering and meals, prizes — some of it, the travel and the advertising, were millions of dollars.”

In written testimony to the House Committee on Human Services and Housing earlier this month, Oregon State Lottery Director Larry Niswender pointed out that advertising budgets for other state lotteries amount to anywhere from 0.4 to 4.2 percent of lottery sales, putting Oregon on “the low end of the range.”

But problem gambling takes a considerable toll on Oregon from a social as well as a financial perspective: According to the Oregon Health Authority, more than 80,000 Oregonians struggled with the addiction in 2010. Of that, less than 2 percent received treatment for their addiction.

Of the Oregon State Lottery’s more than $1 billion in revenues, one percent was allocated to the Oregon Department of Human Services for problem gambling treatment programs. Meanwhile, the Oregon Lottery Commission allots 59 percent of its revenue to public education, with 25 percent earmarked for economic development initiatives and 15 percent for state parks and natural resource protection.

Between 2009 and 2011, lottery-funded grants statewide totaled more than $6.7 million.

The issue of legalized gambling is a pressing one in Washington County in particular, which last year accounted for nearly 12 percent of all lottery sales.

Public good

HB 3377 aims to do more than pare down the budget, with stipulations to promote fairness in advertising: The bill would require printed lottery tickets and television, radio and newspaper ads for the lottery to include “a close approximation of the odds of winning” a cash prize for that particular game.

The bill demands the inclusion of a disclaimer: “lottery games are based on chance and should be played for entertainment only,” and that “lottery games should not be played for investment purposes.”

“My own sister had some issues with gambling, and I’ve certainly talked to people in the community who have,” Parrish added, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive public awareness campaigns.

For more information about House Bill 3377, visit tualatintimes.com.




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