Despite the opposition of some legislators, Oregon Lottery officials yesterday indicated that July 1 is being targeted as the start-up date for the lottery's new video slot-machine games.
"We aren't just going to flip a switch. We are going to plan it and make it successful," Lottery Director Dale Penn said during a meeting of the state Lottery Commission.
Penn's comment came as the panel voted to begin exploring the steps needed to implement Gov. Ted Kulongoski's plan to expand state-sponsored gambling to generate more profits for the state.
Senate President Peter Courtney said he has heard from Senate Democrats who say it's a mistake to generate more revenue by adding video slot games to vendors' video-poker terminals.
"I don't know what their numbers are, but there are individual senators who are very adamantly opposed to it," the Salem Democrat said.
A formal vote to go ahead with slot machines won't come until next month, but Lottery Commission members made it clear yesterday that they intend to proceed with the expansion as quickly as possible.
As part of his 2005-2007 budget plan, Kulongoski directed the lottery to begin offering video slots also known as line games to raise an additional $120 million to pay for state troopers.
Among the lawmakers who oppose the move is Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown, D-Portland.
"I just don't think it's a good idea for us to be paying for the Oregon State Police out of line games," she said. "We shouldn't be using 'slots for cops.' "
Lottery Commission Chairman Kerry Tymchuk said, however, that the commission plans to move ahead with the video slots unless the Legislature votes to prohibit the games.
Tymchuk said that based on conversations he's had with individual members of the House and Senate, he doubts that a majority of lawmakers want to cancel the planned expansion.
"The communications I have received so far is that the need for more revenue trumps the concerns they might have about expanding gaming options," he said.
Penn, meanwhile, said yesterday that to come up with as much additional revenue as the governor wants, the video slots will need to be on line no later than July 1, the start of the new two-year budget period.
"We need to have the full two years to collect the funds," the lottery director said.
Among the issues still to be worked out is how the lottery will adjust its payouts to video-lottery retailers so that bars and taverns will get some additional profits but not a "windfall" from the new games.