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Lawmaker Calls On Ohio Lottery To Supplement School Funding

Lottery tickets on display in a gas station convenience store in Columbus.
Karen Kasler
Ohio Public Radio
Lottery tickets on display in a gas station convenience store in Columbus.

State lawmakers are still considering how to regulate sports gambling in Ohio. However, one Republican state senator says sports betting isn’t going to help bring in a lot more money for the state, so he wants more action from the Ohio Lottery.

K-12 schools took a $300 million budget cut last month because of declining state revenues. State Sen. Bill Coley (R-Liberty Township) argues that since Ohio Lottery profits go to education, the lottery needs to come up with ways to replace that money.

Coley, the president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, wrote a letter to Ohio Lottery Director Patrick McDonald asking his agency "to find a solution that would benefit casinos, schools, small businesses and racetracks and help avert the deep and devastating cuts to education that the governor is seeking."

Since mid-March, 1.3 million people have filed for unemployment in Ohio. But Coley said even though people have lost income during this downturn, the lottery could find ways to capture entertainment dollars that aren’t being spent on movies, concerts and sporting events.

“We’re slowly winging that back up, but maybe it is time that at least we should be having that discussion, and my point is that at least lottery should be presenting ideas to us," Coley said.

Coley wants lottery officials to look for new games and promotional opportunities. He noted Keno came just after the recession in 2008 and electronic slots were added at horseracing tracks in 2010.

Studies have shown that people with lower incomes are more likelyto buy lottery tickets, though lottery officials across the country have said they don't market to lower-income people. A Pew study in April showed about half of low-income people have reported job or income losses because of the pandemic.

Sports betting has gotten a lot of attention in Ohio, though experts have suggested it won't bring in a lot of money.

A bill to put regulation of sports betting with the Ohio Lottery has passed the Ohio House. Meanwhile, a proposal to place that authority with the Ohio Casino Control Commission is pending in a Senate committee.

Senate President Larry Obhof has said there is a "strong disagreement between the chambers" on that, and that it's his sense that Gov. Mike DeWine doesn't want the lottery in charge of sports betting either.