New Lottery Machines Raising Revenues

The Oregon Lottery has been replacing its 12,000 machines with newer models that allow gamblers to play more and bet lower. State officials are pleased with the 10 percent revenue increase the new machines are generating. But problem-gambling professionals believe the new games are dangerously addictive.

In the past year, the Oregon Lottery has been replacing many of its 12,000 machines around the state with newer models that let gamblers play more games while betting less money, often just a few cents at a time. The new machines offer multi-spin game options, providing more “action” and more chances to hit the jackpot.

Recent revenue reports show players are spending 10 percent more on the VLTs compared to a year ago. The Oregon Lottery pays the state $500 million annually. Oregon Lottery Director Jack Roberts said the revenue increase simply may be due to the improved economy, not more-addictive games, as gambling addiction professionals claim. “We don’t have any evidentiary reason to believe that these games are addictive. I know there are theories floating around that the machines are somehow addictive to people. But frankly that’s never been demonstrated and we’re not seeing any signs that people are playing longer or playing more,” Roberts said.

However, gambling recovery advocate Wes Wood of Voices of Problem Gambling Recovery has been lobbying state lawmakers to help gamblers. As a result, legislators have sponsored House Bill 3317, which requires VLM operators to consider socioeconomic data to make sure new revenues are not a hidden tax on the poor. Also, HB 3318, sponsored by state Rep. Kathleen Taylor, establishes a “Responsible Gambling Code of Practice.” HB 3316, which would have classified certain venues as casinos, forcing those operators to lose their lottery licenses, failed due to its cost of $83 million a year.