The Oregon Lottery has broad authority to approve new games, but with legislators scrutinizing its foray into online sports betting, the Lottery is discovering that what the statehouse can give, it can also take away.  

Oregon lawmakers have begun expressing concerns over the lottery’s Scoreboard online sports betting app, and are threatening to pull the rug out from under the Oregon Lottery’s sports betting program.

According to the local press, Rep. Paul Evans (D-Monmouth) is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers that feel the lottery’s new sports betting app comes with too much risk (of problem gambling) and not enough reward.

Evans said, “There needs to be accountability,” during a legislative hearing, but at the heart of the matter is how online sports betting came to be in Oregon. That is, without any input or discussion with the legislature.

Just Because You Can Do Something Doesn’t Mean You Should

The Oregon Lottery was well within its rights to authorize sports betting. Likewise, the legislature is well within its rights to prohibit it if it believes the Oregon Lottery is pushing the envelope a bit too far in the games it authorizes.

But at the end of the day, this is more likely a case of political feelings being hurt. Lawmakers aren’t fond of being pushed aside, and even though they long ago granted the lottery the ability to approve games, they want to be consulted and feel like they have a say on consequential matters.

In layman’s terms, lawmakers are a lot like Robert DeNiro’s character in Meet the Parents. They expect you to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage.

And since the Oregon Lottery decided to run off and elope with sports betting, the state’s lawmakers aren’t happy. That could very well lead to them prohibiting the lottery from offering online sports betting.

The Minnesota Example

Oregon isn’t the only state that allows its lottery to approve new games without legislative approval, nor is it the first state to come under fire from its legislature for exercising that right and offering online games.

A similar situation played out in Minnesota in 2014-2015.

Minnesota was one of the first online lottery states, and like online sports betting in Oregon, the Minnesota online lottery didn’t go through the legislature. The lottery used its authority to approve new games and added online offerings to its menu.

Even though the legislature had granted that power to the lottery, plenty of lawmakers felt the lottery overstepped its bounds and bypassed the legislature. That led to a successful repeal effort that saw the Minnesota legislature prohibit online lottery games.

As is the case in Oregon, I’ve always wondered what would have happened if the Minnesota Lottery had gone to the legislature beforehand and gotten its blessing?

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