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Wednesday, March 18, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Big Earthquakes Won't Rattle Oregon Lottery Games For Long

AP Writer

SALEM - After the Big One hits Oregon, have no fear. State employees will be working feverishly to restore video poker and other lottery games so people can gamble again within hours of the earthquake.

So says the Oregon Lottery's disaster-preparedness plan.

Critics call it a case of hopelessly misplaced priorities.

"State officials ought to be working to make sure Oregonians' basic needs are met first," said Ellen Lowe of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, a longtime gambling opponent.

"Getting video poker back online ought to be the lowest priority."

Lottery spokesman David Hooper said keeping the games going even after a disaster is important because the gambling generates $1 million a day in profits for the state.

"We're a sales organization. We make money for the state by selling our product," he said. "That's why it's important for the state that we are able to get back on our feet quickly."

The Oregon Lottery Commission today awarded a $124,000 contract to Netplex, a McLean, Va., company, for advice on how to respond in a crisis.

"I don't think anybody envisions that if an asteroid hits the Earth that we're going to have people playing video poker right away," Commissioner Don Scarborough said.

"But we would look pretty dumb if the lottery was sitting here days or months after a disaster unable to operate."

Lottery officials say they also want to make sure the games are available to people not affected by the disaster.

"People might say, `That's too bad about the earthquake. . . . Now let's go out and play a little video poker tonight,' " Hooper said.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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