Almost three-quarters of Oregon Lottery retailers are operational again, and more than half of the state’s video lottery terminals are up and running.
Governor Kate Brown’s phase one reopening strategy authorized restaurants and bars, the lottery’s sole VLT retailers, to seek approval to reopen on a county by county basis on May 15.
As of May 25, only two Portland-area counties remained closed out of the state’s 36 counties.
Washington County reopened on June 1. Meanwhile, Multnomah County plans to submit an application to reopen on June 12, according to The Oregonian.
With businesses shuttered for more than two months because of the COVID-19 crisis, Oregon Lottery saw a loss of nearly $5 million in April, according to a recently released financial report.
Oregon Lottery’s March revenue was down 49% from the same month last year.
The state’s two biggest counties remain largely closed. Elsewhere, 74% of Lottery’s 1,504 VLT retailers are back in business and reporting revenue of $10.9 million. That is down 37% from pre-COVID numbers.
Before the coronavirus crisis, VLTs generated about $19 million every week.
Oregon Lottery has contributed more than $12 billion to public education and other state programs since 1985, including more than $726 million in 2018.
What to expect from VLT retailers
Oregon Lottery adopted a temporary rule that lays out mandatory reopening and operational practices for VLT retailers during its May 29 Commission meeting.
The rule details procedures for the safe placement, operation, and maintenance of VLTs, including social and physical distancing requirements, cleaning protocols, player check-in process, and hours of operation.
The temporary rule is effective for six months. The commission may move to adopt it permanently in November, if necessary.
Mandatory requirements for VLT retailers include the following:
- Players must request access to terminals
- Terminals must be at least six feet apart
- Terminals must be cleaned between players
- One player at a time at each terminal
- Restaurants and bars must close by 10 p.m.
Oregon Lottery Director Barry Pack said that, although state officials and retailers are working together to help with economic recovery efforts, results won’t be apparent overnight.
“While the shutdown of video was statewide and immediate, restarting will take some time as we work with retailers to ensure they can operate under the new guidelines,” he said.
Other factors will contribute to the lottery’s ability to recover from the current recession, including fewer available VLTs and permanently shuttered businesses.
For example, social distancing requirements have a considerable impact on retailers.
To ensure proper spacing between machines, only 56% of the lottery’s total VLTs will be placed into service.
In addition, the depressed economy will make it difficult for start-up businesses looking to replace lottery retailers that closed down permanently during the mandatory restrictions.
The state’s June 2020 economic and revenue forecast predicts that former levels of economic health will not be recovered until the mid-2020s. Forecasters expect growth to be slow so long as there is uncertainty around the severity and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Phase Two reopening strategy coming soon
On May 29, Gov. Brown’s office released a draft proposal for phase two in the state’s reopening strategy.
Counties that have successfully operated under phase one guidelines for at least three weeks are eligible to apply for phase two authorization.
As the document stands now, the phase one mandatory closing time of 10 p.m. for restaurants and bars would be extended to midnight.
Phase one guidelines for gatherings would go up from 25 people to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors.vPartitions around booths would allow for increased table placement and approved outdoor spacing as well.