Oklahoma Lottery Goes to the Dogs–Literally

September 13, 2007

If you were to compile a list of some of the basic functions of state government employees, what would come to mind? Making tax and spending decisions? Monitoring public utilities? Maintaining infrastructure? Prosecuting criminals? It’s a pretty long list, but chances are, one thing you would not put on that list of basic functions of public servants is “judging the attractiveness and photogenicness of pet dogs.”

Unless you live in Oklahoma, that is. From the Oklahoma Lottery’s Web site (PDF):

To encourage membership in the Oklahoma Lottery Player’s Club, the Oklahoma Lottery is Lookin’ for Lucky Dogs to be featured in an upcoming Scratcher. Ten (10) dogs will be selected to appear on the Lucky Dog Scratcher, which will be launching in December 2007.

The promotion will be available through the Oklahoma Lottery website, http://www.lottery.ok.gov/, from September 1-30, 2007. Once submitted, photos will be approved by the Lottery staff and will be posted on the Oklahoma Lottery website for public viewing.

Upon selection of the ten (10) dogs, each winner will receive the following prizes

  • • Dog’s photograph and name on a finalized Lucky Dog Scratcher ticket
  • • $250 PetSmart® giftcard
  • • $25 in Lucky Dog Scratchers

So encourage your players to become members of the Oklahoma Lottery Player’s Club and start taking pictures of their pooches! Who knows, their Dog could be Lucky!

If the lottery were run by a private company, this promotion would be no big deal. But we should not forget that lottery employees are state employees. From the “About Us” section of the lottery’s Web site:

In April 2003, the Oklahoma legislature passed House Bill 1278 and Senate Joint Resolution 22, which, respectively, created the Oklahoma Education Lottery Act (Title 59, Sections 701-735 of the Oklahoma Statutes) and the Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund and ordered a legislative referendum pursuant to the Oklahoma Constitution. Oklahoma voters approved State Questions 705 and 706 overwhelmingly on November 2, 2004. The act created an Oklahoma Lottery Commission to initiate, supervise, and administer the operation of the Lottery.

The Commission is governed by a Board of Trustees composed of seven members appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Board is required to appoint and provide for the compensation of an executive director who may hire other staff as necessary and who will be responsible for the administrative management and daily operations of the commission.

Should state employees really be spending their time—and taxpayer money—to decide whether the poodle or the schnauzer should have its picture on the Lucky Dog Scratcher?

This story says so much about the inappropriateness of governments running, marketing and profiting from lotteries that we almost don’t need to mention (again) that lotteries impose hidden, implicit taxes on consumers and exemplify poor tax policy.

Click here for more on state-run lotteries.


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