Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Lawmakers View Walters' Plan for State Lottery as a Gamble

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Lawmakers View Walters' Plan for State Lottery as a Gamble

Article excerpt

By Lou Anne Wolfe

Journal Record Staff Reporter

Gov. David Walters took a gamble Tuesday when he called for a state lottery in his State of the State Speech to the Oklahoma Legislature.

"I was surprised when he first mentioned it, because I thought he was closer to the DeBartolos than that," cracked House Minority Leader Larry Ferguson, R-Cleveland. He was referring to Edward J. DeBartolo, owner of Remington Park racetrack in Oklahoma City.

Ferguson noted that Walters proposed half the lottery kitty would be spent on one-time capital improvement projects, while the other half would sit as an endowment fund whose interest earnings would go to the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.

"I think as long as a small amount goes to OCAST, that would be okay, but I don't think the Legislature's ready to turn over a massive amount of money," Ferguson said.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate Democrat leaders held out slim hope that a lottery would be enacted by the Legislature.

"All of the `anti' groups will have something to focus on, a cause that will enable them to survive," said Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Cullison, D-Skiatook.

"I, personally, am opposed to the lottery, and I've done all I could to prevent it from being passed in the past. Philosophically, I think the state has no business in the gambling business," Cullison said.

At the same time, the Senate president predicted that a state lottery would become reality in the not-too-distant future. If not enacted by the Legislature, a petition drive could be successful, he said.

Regarding the latter possibility, he said, "If you have enough money, you can change the constitution of the State of Oklahoma." Cullison added that the petition route would be least desirable, because the petitioners would designate how the proceeds would be controlled and spent.

Cullison said he liked the elements of Walters' lottery proposal that would dictate the money be restricted to one-time capital expenditures, rather than recurring funding needs.

House Speaker Glen Johnson, D-Okemah, said a lottery has been opposed by the House for at least the past eight to 10 years, "and I don't expect it to change. …

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