Local video lottery payout tops $100 million
Where can you find almost a half billion dollars in East Multnomah County? In state-controlled slot machines, and that's only for one year.
Across Gresham, Troutdale, Wood Village, Fairview and Corbett, players saw about $497 million in virtual money roll across the reels — though the vast majority of that cash never left the screen.
A word of caution: Any player who has tried their luck understands the churn — up 10 cents, down 5 cents, up 10 cents again — of playing on a government-owned video lottery terminal.
The half-billion dollar figure quoted above includes every single increase of money down to a penny ante, even if the player ultimately cashes out with less or is even wiped out.
"It's also all the bonuses and the free plays and when people keep turning over their winnings and continue to play," noted Oregon Lottery spokesman Chuck Baumann. "It's not just direct money (inserted) into the machine."
Phone calls flooded the newsroom recently after The Outlook published a gloomy front-page story, "Gresham gamblers lose $25 million in state-run video lottery machines," on Tuesday, Sept. 5.
Lottery officials voiced their displeasure as well, arguing that a look solely at losses misses the other side of the equation.
"It's not like people just go up to a machine and lose. A lot of people play, and a lot of people do win," said Oregon Lottery spokeswoman Joanie Stevens-Schwenger. "Otherwise it's a skewed view."
It seems what everyone really wants to know is how much gamblers won. That number is approximately $100 million, though it would be misleading to call it pure profit. Here's how the math adds up:
First, East Multnomah County bettors loaded nearly $140 million in hard cash into lottery terminals over the past year.
Lottery terminals don't dispense cash themselves, but bartenders and lottery attendants doled out a smaller, but still mind-boggling number: $101.7 million.
The net loss for area gamblers is approximately $38 million — the same number reported in the Outlook's previous article, though the headline zeroed in on just the area within Gresham city limits.
And for the record, the Oregon Lottery system has a general payout ratio of 92.25 percent, though that number can vary depending on the game played or the terminal used. Luck streaks come and go, but on average, a player receives 92 cents for every dollar played.
"The odds are with the house. We're very upfront about that," explained Stevens-Schwenger.
Gresham gamblers are doing their civic duty to fund the state government. Oregon Lottery revenue is now the second largest source of income at the Capitol, topped only by Oregon's personal income tax.
All told, the Oregon Lottery provides roughly $1.2 billion to legislators, who flow that money toward schools, parks and watersheds. That number includes both video lottery revenue and other Lottery products, like Keno and Powerball.
The one-year period mentioned in this article stretched from June 26, 2016, to June 25, 2017. All data provided to this newspaper by Lottery officials was in response to public records requests.
CORRECTION: Oregon Lottery's payout ratio is roughly 92 percent for the entire system of games and terminals. A previous version of this article included incorrect information.
The Outlook regrets the error.