tate. Sen Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) dropped an amendment last Friday that would prohibit sports betting on mobile devices, a new line of business that the Oregon Lottery is pursuing aggressively. The Oregon Legislative Information System published a brief proposed amendment to House Bill 3389, a bill that would allow the Oregon Lottery to keep the names of prize winners in multi-state games such as Mega-millions and Powerball confidential.
“The Oregon State Lottery Commission may not offer a sports betting game unless tickets or shares for the game may be purchased solely via equipment that is owned or leased by the Oregon State Lottery," the amendment reads, as reported by Willamette Week. For the past year, the lottery has worked toward taking advantage of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized sports betting in all 50 states.
The agency's customer base, which mostly plays video lottery, is aging. That's a challenge for the state because the lottery is Oregon's second largest source of revenue after personal income taxes. Lottery officials see betting on sports as a way to attract new and younger bettors, but younger bettors want to gamble on their phones.
The agency's desire to enter mobile betting in time for the 2019 NFL football season has led to controversy. The lottery in February asked three companies to offer proposals for building a mobile sports betting system. The agency selected SBTech, a company registered in Malta with most of its operations in Bulgaria, which prompted a formal protest from Scientific Games, a longtime Lottery contractor. The lottery has so far declined to provide copies of the winning proposal or the two competing proposals.
Meanwhile, another lawmaker, state Sen. Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro) last month proposed an amendment slightly different from the one Hass offered Friday. Riley's amendment, which was adopted, said the lottery cannot offer internet or mobile betting; Hass' amendment specifically says sports betting is fine—but only on machines owned by the lottery, i.e no mobile devices. That would please the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, whose members depend on the commissions the video lottery terminals in their establishments generate.
Both amendments are potentially significant, not only because the lottery seeks to begin mobile sports betting, but because lawmakers have already dedicated whatever money that endeavor might generate to helping pay down the state's USD 27 billion unfunded pension liability.
Hass told Willamette Week that the amendment is unlikely to be adopted and the underlying bill—which includes Riley's amendment—is unlikely to pass. But it is the lottery's view that the agency already has the authority to move forward with sports betting on mobile devices and that's what's likely to happen.