As state lotteries continue to turn ordinary citizens into millionaires, the option looks more and more attractive to Oklahoma lawmakers and advocates looking for a way to ease the state's budgetary woes.
America's game, PowerBall, paid off big for two winning tickets earlier this month - one sold in Missouri and one in Pennsylvania.
The news came out July 9, and the winners will split a $261.3 million PowerBall jackpot. Both winners had the option of taking a 29-year annuity or the cash, worth $73.6 million each. The ticket holders have 60 days after the tickets are validated to make that decision.
This is the fourth largest PowerBall jackpot in history, and the largest lottery jackpot in the world this year.
In addition to the jackpot winners, more than three million players across the nation won over $21.5 million in prizes in the same game. The numbers drawn were 19, 21, 26, 31, 51, and the PowerBall was 40. The Power Play multiplier was 3. Also, 40 winners matched five of the white ball numbers and received $100,000 each.
Before the excitement died down from this PowerBall win, a single ticket purchased in Kentucky won a July 16 jackpot of $13.5 million. The winner will decide to take the 29-year annuity or the cash option worth more than $7.5 million.
The jackpot is won by matching all five white balls in any order and the red PowerBall. The second prize, a $100,000 cash prize is won by matching five white balls in any order. Any time you match the red PowerBall, you win. The overall odds of winning a prize in the game is better than 1 in 36.
In April, the Oklahoma House of Representatives was one vote shy of approving a bill that could legalize lotteries for schools, churches and various nonprofit organizations.
Republicans tried to change the bill by removing the authority for school children to sell raffle tickets connected with giveaways. They also wanted to remove the authority for churches to sell raffle tickets if their governing boards - on a local, state, national or international level - disapprove of such games.
Gov. Brad Henry has said he will wait to have an election on the lottery law until November 2004, when voters also will be asked to approve changes to the state constitution to set up a lottery trust fund.
Mike Miller, Cherokee Nation Public Information director, said the tribe doesn't think a lottery is bad for Oklahoma, but Cherokees will leave it up to others to decide the issue.
"We aren't pushing for or against the lottery," said Miller.
The tribe itself has scored profits from its gaming enterprises, under the auspices of Cherokee Nation Enterprises. Bingo and certain "machine"-type gambling are available at tribal casinos, provided the gambling is restricted to Class 2. In other words, participants may "gamble" against one another, but not against the "house"; that would constitute Class 3 gaming, which is illegal even for tribes.
Many people believe that since Indian tribes can own casinos, the state itself should simply legalize gambling - or at least implement a lottery - so it and its schools can share in the wealth.
Maria Clark, a Tahlequah resident who often travels out-of-state to visit family, said she has never played the lottery, and probably still wouldn't if Oklahoma had one.
"I'm not a lottery-type person," said Clark. "I like slot machines, but I don't believe in the lottery."
Clark believes a lottery would bring money to the state, but being in the Bible belt, she doesn't think a lottery bill will pass.
"They've put it through a couple of times now, and I don't think people, who are supposed to be responsible voters, will get out to vote on it," said Clark.
She believes the state would benefit from the extra money coming in from a lottery, but not the average Joe.
"In this economy, it's just something else to spend money on," said Clark.
Treasure Arts is a company that provides convenience stores with phone cards that are also scratch-and-win tickets. You used to see them all over the Tahlequah area, but recently, they've all but disappeared.
Earl Murphy, manager of the Big B store on Downing, said the store still carries them.
"The reason other stores don't carry them is because the representative in this area quit, and you have to ship through UPS," said Murphy.
The store doesn't make a lot of money on the cards; Murphy only has to reorder once a month or every two months, depending on how low they get.
"People tell me the phone card works real good," said Murphy.
Ty Thomas, owner of Dano's convenience store, said they just don't carry the phone cards anymore, and it isn't because of the carrier.
"It's a controlled net profit," said Thomas.
That means the company decides what the product will sell for and what kind of money the store will make on it.
"Just like insurance goes up, and electricity goes up, it needs to go up with volume, but it just doesn't," said Thomas.