The Oregon Lottery’s Unique Support for Veterans

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Oregon pioneers new level of commitment to veterans’ services with consistent share of all Lottery proceeds

You know the old word association game? What would be the first thing you think of if you heard the phrase, “lottery funding”?

For most people, “education” would probably spring most naturally to mind. This makes sense, considering that almost every state across the country has a lottery, the vast majority of which fund education programs to varying degrees (including Oregon’s).

But if you dig deeper, you’ll find that lotteries support a number of different important causes. Oregon’s Lottery was founded in the 1980s, initially to fuel economic development. It wasn’t until 1995 that voters added education programs to the funding mix. Support for state parks and watershed restoration were added just a few years after that. This is consistent with the sorts of programs that lotteries support across the country.

However, in 2016, something unique happened. Oregon voters flocked to the polls to mandate that 1.5% of Lottery proceeds be dedicated to support veteran services, a cause uniting 84% of voters. Through bipartisan leadership and broad citizen support, Oregon became a true standout in its commitment to supporting the needs of its underserved veteran community through Lottery funding.

Only a handful of other states have even dabbled in supporting veteran services in this way. In these states, funds have been raised primarily through the sale of specialty scratch tickets. Such tickets are sold for a limited time and produce a finite return to the state. And while some states have kept consecutive veteran-themed scratch tickets in play, none have made a commitment to veterans in the way Oregon’s commitment is structured. Here, because 1.5% of overall Lottery proceeds—from all tickets and games—is now dedicated to veterans’ services, funding will be tied directly to the success of our Lottery in general, rather than to the success of a single scratch ticket—a truly unprecedented level of support!

Although the program is relatively new, the addition of Lottery funds has already more than doubled the number of dollars set aside for veterans’ services in the state’s General Fund. This biennium, the consolidated total of Lottery funds and General Fund dollars is $26.1 million. Grants will support veteran healthcare (including mental health services), job placement, education, home loans and more.

It’s true that Lottery funding has been, and will likely continue to be, a mainstay of support for public education. But because of Oregon’s pioneering model, “Lottery funding” may someday become just as strongly associated with “veterans’ services” in the future. Until then, we are proud to be a state that pioneers new ways to support services for veterans and their families.