Oregon Cities

Kotek selects interim director Wells to head Oregon Lottery

oregon Lottery
An Oregon Lottery sign hangs outside the Cheerful Tortoise bar in Portland, Ore., Nov. 24, 2018. The lottery has released a new sports betting smartphone app called Scoreboard.

FILE: An Oregon Lottery sign hangs outside the Cheerful Tortoise bar in Portland, Ore., Nov. 24, 2018.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

The Oregon Lottery — an agency that brings in millions of dollars to fund state parks and public schools, but has also been criticized for preying on the poor — has a new leader.

Gov. Tina Kotek has selected Michael Wells, who has been acting as interim director, to lead the agency pending confirmation by the state Senate.

“It is imperative that the director is an experienced leader who will champion transparency and accountability,” Kotek said in a statement.

During the 2022 fiscal year, the Oregon Lottery generated nearly $909 million which went to veteran services, outdoor school, state parks and public schools, among other programs. The state of Oregon relies heavily on lottery dollars — they are the second-largest revenue source only after personal income taxes. The Oregon Lottery is funded through the sale of lottery games. The state Legislature decides how to spend the money.

But the agency has come under fire more recently as a study from the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism determined the Oregon Lottery targeted communities of color and people with less money, as reported by Willamette Week.

Wells has been with the Oregon Lottery since 2019. He will earn $270,912. Before joining the Oregon Lottery, Wells worked in local, state and federal law enforcement for more than two decades. He served as an Oregon State Police officer and worked as a special agent in the organized crime section of the Oregon Department of Justice.

While on the campaign trail, Kotek promised to increase accountability within state agencies.

Early in her tenure, the governor asked for resignations from Oregon Department of Emergency Management director Andrew Phelps, Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen, Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission director Steve Marks and the former Oregon Lottery director Barry Pack. Oregon Department of Education director Colt Gill resigned.

Editor’s note: This story has updated been updated to reflect Andrew Phelps former role as leading the office of emergency management. OPB regrets the error.

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