Oregon Sports Betting Setup Sends State Police to Bulgaria

Oregon State Police found themselves well outside their jurisdiction in April when officers were dispatched to Sofia and Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the home of a company that the Oregon Lottery just contracted to build a platform for sports betting on mobile devices. 

A May 2018 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court unlocked the potential for legal sports betting in the United States. Oregon Lottery officials are hoping to move into this potentially profitable new space. The lottery is the state’s second largest revenue stream, behind personal income taxes. 

Oregon Lottery officials decided on Malta-based, Bulgaria-located SBTech as having the best proposal to build this platform. State Police visited in order to conduct a thorough background check on the company. Three other states – New Jersey, Mississippi and Pennsylvania – have contracted with SBTech for similar work. 

However, there may be trouble for the Oregon Lottery’s move into mobile sports betting, as Senator Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro), chair of the Committee on Business and General Government, seems opposed to the idea. He introduced an amendment to a bill about the anonymous acceptance of lottery winnings that bars the Oregon Lottery from expanding into online and mobile gambling. 

Riley said although he does not like the state’s reliance on gambling, he introduced the amendment for two reasons. One, the law as it stands doesn’t do enough to prevent minors and children from accessing gambling through other people’s phones. Two, Lottery officials apparently told Riley they had the authority to move ahead with their plans to expand into mobile and online gambling with or without the legislature’s say. 

“They said ‘we don’t need your authorization,'” Riley says, “I’m big on legislative oversight of the executive branch.”  

Other legislative leaders, like House Speaker Tina Kotek, support Senate Bill 1049, which allocates $100 million from sports gambling revenues to pay down the state’s public pension debt (PERS). 

By Ian MacRonald