Lawmaker Debuts New Bill Amendment Prohibiting Oregon Lottery From Launching Mobile Sports Betting

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mark Hass becomes the second senator to try to kill the agency's big new initiative.

Blazers fan at the Moda Center. (Sam Gehrke)

State. Sen Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) dropped an amendment late Friday that would prohibit sports betting on mobile devices, a new line of business that the Oregon Lottery is pursuing aggressively.

At 4:54 pm, the Oregon Legislative Information System published a brief proposed amendment to House Bill 3389, a bill that would allow the Oregon Lottery to keep the names of prize winners in multi-state games such as Mega-millions and Powerball confidential.

'The Oregon State Lottery Commission may not offer a sports betting game unless tickets or shares for the game maybe purchased solely via equipment that is owned or leased by the Oregon State Lottery," the amendment reads.

For the past year, the lottery has worked toward taking advantage of a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized sports betting in all 50 states.

The agency's customer base, which mostly plays video lottery, is aging. That's a challenge for the state because the lottery is Oregon's second largest source of revenue after personal income taxes. Lottery officials see betting on sports as a way to attract new and younger bettors. But younger bettors want to gamble on their phones.

As WW reported earlier, the agency's desire to enter mobile betting in time for the 2019 NFL football season has led to controversy. The lottery in February asked three companies to offer proposals for building a mobile sports betting system. The agency selected SB Tech, a company registered in Malta with most of its operations in Bulgaria, which prompted a formal protest from Scientific Games, a Las Vegas-based company that is a longtime Lottery contractor.

The lottery has so far declined to provide copies of the winning proposal or the two competing proposals, leaving the process shrouded in mystery.

Meanwhile, another lawmaker, state Sen. Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro) last month proposed an amendment slightly different from the one Hass offered today.

Riley's amendment, which was adopted, said the lottery cannot offer internet or mobile betting; Hass' amendment specifically says sports betting is fine—but only on machines owned by the lottery, i.e no mobile devices. That would please the Oregon Restaurant  & Lodging Association, whose members depend on the commissions the video lottery terminals in their establishments generate.

Both amendments are potentially significant, not only because the lottery desperately wants to begin mobile sports betting but because lawmakers have already dedicated whatever money that endeavor might generate to helping pay down the state's $27 billion unfunded pension liability.

Hass tells WW that the amendment is unlikely to be adopted and the underlying bill—which includes Riley's amendment—is unlikely to pass. That may seem a little confusing. But it is the lottery's view that the agency already has the authority to move forward with sports betting on mobile devices and that's what's likely to happen.

The Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue will hold a work session on HB 3389 on Monday at 1 pm.

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