Redburn helped launch the state lottery — and leaves behind some big shoes to fill
By Kate Northrop
OKLAHOMA CITY, Ok. — Last week, the Oklahoma Lottery said farewell to the Director who was instrumental in vouching for and establishing the state's lottery.
Rollo Redburn, 68, retired from his position as Lottery Commission Director after his final day on the job last Friday. He played an essential role in pushing for the approval of the organization in 2005. First serving in the agency as Director of Administration, he was appointed the Lottery's second Director in 2012 following Jim Scroggins departure.
"Technically, Gov. [Brad] Henry and Scott Meacham [former state treasurer and Henry's Secretary of Finance and Revenue] asked me to get it running five months before Jim got there," Redburn remarked.
Prior to his career at the Lottery, he graduated from Will Rogers High School in Tulsa in 1970 and went on to complete his bachelor's degree in business administration at Oklahoma Christian University. He began his career as a budget analyst trainee and then worked his way up to Deputy Director of State Finance at the Oklahoma Office of State Finance over the course of 29 years.
Redburn also had a heavy hand in ensuring more money went toward education. At first, state legislation required that 35% of the Lottery's profits are allocated to education. Redburn's administration successfully helped pass legislation that removed this requirement. This led to larger prizes, which in turn attracted more players, and finally, more funds for education.
"That was all Rollo's vision," David Ostrowe said. Ostrowe had served five years on the Commission Board of Trustees and three years as Chairman. He was later selected to serve as Governor Kevin Stitt's Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration.
As a result of Redburn's push for new legislation, the Lottery now generates about $65 million a year for education. The road to get there, however, was never easy.
Jumpstarting the lottery organization was tough on its own. Managing tasks like finding office space, buying equipment, hiring staff, and drafting requests for proposals was all part of the job. Even tougher was the balancing act Redburn had to play when it came to forming a relationship between the Lottery and lawmakers.
"People used to run when they saw me coming," Redburn recalled. "Now, people call to ask for our opinion about bills and what we need to make the lottery better."
Redburn advocated for the Oklahoma Lottery to join multi-state lottery organizations to allow the sale of Powerball and Mega Millions tickets in the state. He was also successful in convincing convenience store chain 7-Eleven to partner with the Lottery as an official retailer this year, adding on 108 locations to the Lottery's retailer network.
According to Redburn, the Oklahoma Lottery could consider expanding its sales by allowing players to buy lottery tickets on their phones. He said that players could also be incentivized by a points reward system when purchasing lottery merchandise.
Redburn leaves behind a state agency that Ostrowe says is the most efficient in that it spends much less on administration and overhead than others. This week, Deputy Director Jay Finks picked up where Redburn left off, succeeding him as Director.
"They are hyper focused on funding education to the most amount every year," Ostrowe said. "The team understands that. That all starts with Rollo. He will be missed."