Kansas may be loser in Okla. lottery

State's revenues could drop as much as $15 million

Mark Lunn can’t wait for the Oklahoma lottery to get started.

Lunn is a cashier at the Cenex gas station in South Haven, Kan., a dusty stopover four miles north of the state line on Interstate 35. Oklahoma residents, he said, form most of the station’s customers for Kansas Lottery tickets.

It can get overwhelming at times.

“We get swamped every time there’s a drawing,” Lunn said Thursday afternoon. “They come from as far as Oklahoma City – a lot of our regulars come from Oklahoma City.”

That may change soon. The Oklahoma lottery starts selling tickets Oct. 12, and Kansas officials say the new game could trim lottery revenues here.

“Ed Van Petten, our executive director, has said we could see a $10-to-$15 million drop in the first year,” said Keith Kocher, general counsel for the Kansas Lottery. “It’s a guess. It’s hard to say how people will react.”

But there’s little denying that Oklahoma ticket buyers have a big impact on Kansas Lottery sales, which totaled almost $207 million dollars in the last fiscal year. Kocher said the state’s two highest-selling retail outlets were in Caney, a southeast Kansas town of 2,000 that sits right on the border with Oklahoma.

Jessica Virtue, 22, picks up her lottery ticket Friday afternoon at the Zarco at Sixth and Florida streets. Oklahoma's new lottery could force Kansas sales to drop significantly, one state official says.

Jim Scroggins, executive director of the Oklahoma lottery, said his state had long been losing lottery players to Kansas, Missouri and Texas. He’s not sure how much of that business he’ll get back.

“If it happens it happens,” Scroggins told the Journal-World. “It’s certainly not the primary objective.”

Kansas law requires that a minimum 45 percent of lottery revenues be used for prizes. During the 2005 fiscal year ending June 30, that left about $64 million to pay for state programs in economic development, juvenile justice, prisons and the state general fund.

Since the lottery began in 1987, the state has reaped $844.6 million as its share of ticket sales, with another $1.44 billion paid out in prizes.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius had no comment on how a dip in ticket sales would affect state programs, referring questions instead to lottery officials.

“Certainly, the governor and Legislature are aware that Oklahoma is coming in,” Kocher said, “and they’re aware it’s possibly going to hurt.”

But Kocher said some Oklahomans might continue to buy Kansas tickets.

“Old habits die hard,” he said. “Some people might like our game better.”