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April 17, 2014

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Why Nevada offers just about every type of gambling possible — except a lottery

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Steve Marcus

People line up to buy Mega Millions lottery tickets at the Primm Valley Lotto Store across the state line at Primm Thursday, March 29, 2012.

Mega Millions lottery fever

People wait in line to buy Mega Millions lottery tickets at the Primm Valley Lotto Store across the state line at Primm Thursday, March 29, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Nevadans cross state lines for lottery

KSNV coverage of why there is no lottery in Nevada, March 28, 2012.

Watching Nevadans form long lines across the California border last week, hoping to strike it rich gambling, would seem akin to Idahoans emigrating for potatoes or Wisconsinites taking a road trip for cheese. Gambling is, more than anything else, supposed to be Nevada’s franchise.

But California offers something Nevada doesn’t: lottery tickets.

Record lottery ticket sales of $1.5 billion last week for a jackpot of $640 million once again raises the question of why Nevada doesn’t participate in a lottery.

“Nevada is sending people out of state to gamble,” said Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, who authored a resolution in 2009 to change the state’s constitution. “That, to me, is crazy.”

Casinos see it differently. A lottery in Nevada would be, in their mind, competition.

The Nevada Constitution has prohibited lotteries since it was ratified in 1864. Over the past 30 years, efforts to change that have been squashed by the gaming industry at the Legislature. (Voters did change the constitution in 1990 to allow charitable groups and not-for-profits to hold small lotteries — think church raffles.)

Since 1975, the Legislature has considered a lottery resolution almost every session to start the ball rolling on a five-year process to amend the constitution. It has yet to pass.

A lottery in Nevada would bring in between $30 million and $50 million a year, according to one Legislative analysis done in 2005. Another study, by the Governor Kenny Guinn’s Task Force on Tax Policy, estimated in 2002 that it would net the state $40 million to $70 million a year.

Considering that the state has cut its budget four times since 2008, that money would by no means solve the state’s budget problems.

And gaming lobbyists said that it would cut into their business.

During a 2009 hearing, when Aizley’s proposal was in front of the Assembly, lobbyists articulated their opposition.

“It would directly compete with our business,” said Michael Alonso, a lobbyist representing Terrible Herbst, according to minutes of the hearing. “We do not think the state should be directly competing with its largest industry.”

Lesley Pittman, a lobbyist representing Station Casinos, also pointed to the government competition. “Now is not the time for the state Legislature to make a conscious choice to make it more difficult for our gaming industry to regain its financial health,” she told the committee.

Lawmakers asked if there wasn’t a way that the local operators could figure out how to make money from lottery sales.

But that math would be difficult.

Retailers in California get 6 percent of lottery ticket sales. Education gets about 50 percent to 55 percent, according to a spokesman for California Lottery.

In Nevada, the gaming tax on its largest casinos’ gambling wins is 6.75 percent.

Gov. Brian Sandoval opposes a state lottery.

“It’s not appropriate for the state to compete with our No. 1 industry,” his spokeswoman said.

MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren told KSNV Channel 3 last week that he also opposes a lottery. His company creates jobs, he said.

“How many jobs does a lottery create?” he asked.

Lottery business on the other side of the border, meanwhile, is doing just fine.

Forty-three states participate in lotteries, generating $17 billion in revenue for those states.

The convenience store just across the California border at Primm is consistently the top seller of lottery tickets in California.

“And it wasn’t close,” said Alex Traverso, spokesman for California Lottery.

Aizley said he doesn’t like to see Nevada money going to buy California lottery tickets and helping fund their schools. But he has given up.

“It just doesn’t pass,” he said. “It’s not a winner for me.”

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  1. The state doesn't care if Nevada is 50th in just about everything negative. For them it is all about the casinos and always has been. Enjoy! Because it is never going to change and I am an optimist.

  2. 24/7 gambling in the Silver State doesn't provide enough opportunities to lose your paychecks for you addicts? You must be sick and should seek help. Do we really need a lottery as a way of sucking even more money out of a populace already deeply in debt because they gamble too much? TV pictures of a guy rushing to an ATM to get money to waste on the Power Ball lottery had me shaking my head and wondering where his was. Seeing that reminded me that "Money is not the source of evil; the love of money is." Just another term for greed! Stupid is as stupid does, I guess.

  3. "how many jobs does a lottery create?"

    The question Sandoval should be asking himself is how are we going to diversify our economy when our education system sucks?

    Step out of the Gaming Industries pocket Sandoval. We're spending Nevada money on California schools, this is common sense, not rocket science.

  4. Why not sell the lottery tickets at the casinos? They would get their 6% and also bring customers in spend more money at the casino. That could even be a lure... spend a certain amount of money and earn free lottery tickets.

  5. I guess people don't feel we have enough gambling here in Nevada. Even though the gaming industry provides thousands of jobs here. Probably more gambling available here then anywhere else in the world. I guess it is okay for Californians to come here and leave a lot of money, but not for Nevadans to go buy a few lottery tickets. Aizley has lived here long enough and should know how much the gaming industry contributes to our educational system. I will continue to oppose a lottery here.

  6. Thank you, Goober B.S., and to each of you who've bought into his shtick about the lotto, so that we 'may not risk offending our Casino Masters'!

    Thank you, indeed!

    Best bet is to keep those THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of vehicles rolling over the border to Cali or 'Zona to buy tickets & to KEEP WASTING FUEL...(and money to BUY FUEL)!
    What a FINE PLAN, man!!!
    (And, coincidentally, keeps our Casino Masters happy!)

    The Lottery would DEFINITELY push people over their financial limits, causing another round of foreclosures, and CHILDREN would STARVE as people use their rent & bread dough to BUY LOTTERY TICKETS!
    (Thankfully, that NEVER HAPPENS in Casinos!)

    Likely, the LAST DOLLAR BILL of every last Nevadan would be wagered on the evil Lottery!
    (That last buck COULD HAVE gone to a CASINO; and they must NOT be cheated out of it!!!)

    Thank God we've been SAVED! Saved from OURSELVES!
    Gambling is EVIL!

    EXCEPT in Las Vegas area casinos, of course! Please, spend freely here!
    (Hell, take out a MARKER and go into DEBT if you have to...butt do YOUR PART!)

    Just don't spend a dollar on the lotto; it's just...WROONG!

    thank you.

  7. There are seven states that do not have lotteries (Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming), and of those seven, only Utah and Hawaii do not have any form of gambling (casinos, card rooms, horse racing, dog racing, bingo, pull-tabs).

    The gaming industry holds the power in Nevada, as without them, the state would not have the sort of revenues they do and there would be a state individual and corporate income tax. Meanwhile there are other states with both casinos and lotteries and in all cases, the lottery was there first.

    Alabama has tried for a number of years to bring in a lottery, but the religious groups have been able to stall such efforts (Just like in Utah, religion holds a lot of sway in the state.). Meanwhile, their residents go to neighboring states to buy lottery tickets (Tennessee, Florida and Georgia) and more than likely the lottery retailers of locations adjacent to the Alabama line are their states' top lottery retailers. So there's no telling how much potential lottery money from Alabama residents goes to the lottery corporations in Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida and help fund the educational programs in those states.

  8. F_ck the gaming lobbyists. Not having a lottery here is just plain stupid. There are 11 casinos in PA. There are 260 casinos in Nevada. The 11 PA casinos pay more in taxes than all of the casinos in Nevada. There is definitely something wrong with this picture!

  9. I'm curious as to the claims I see that the "majority" or "vast majority" of Nevadans want a lottery.

    If that's true, then go forth, get the initiative petitions printed, collect the signatures, and get the state constitution amended to allow the creation of a state lottery.

    Oh wait....that's been tried? And it hasn't gotten enough support to pass? Why? Maybe because the claims that the "majority" want a lottery are bogus.

    A vocal MINORITY want a state lottery, the majority have already spoken on the issue.

    As to why, perhaps you should look into those lottery numbers for other states. How many millions "for education" in Florida? But what has the net increase in education funding been? ZERO. The dollars from the lottery simply replace other dollars that get moved to something other than education. There hasn't really been any benefit to education funding from any state lottery so far.

  10. The income from casinos comes from the total entertainment package - drinks, food, shows, atmosphere, short skirts and a chance to get out of the house and away from TV.

    Nightclubs are becoming top producers of income and have nothing to do with gambling, gaming or lottery tickets, not gambling rooms.

    A large number of people who will buy lottery tickets will never take the time to drive to a casino, park and sit at a slot machine for hours. They just want to try their luck and not have a meal with the experience.

    The Lottery ticket people just want a shot at winning, not a shot from a bar tender. They just want to gamble, not be entertained or leave the daily environment that they like.

    The reason Nevada doesn't have a Lottery Ticket draw is because the Casino owners know who to buy and who will be bought and they buy on a regular basis to keep their own guts filled. They have no concern of how their decisions affect anyone else in the State. Their only concern is for themselves and the rest of us can go scratch.

    When the voters reject this control, they will begin to enjoy the benefits to the Nevada public that State Lotteries can bring.

  11. Nevada's GAMING/RESORT Industry controls Nevada politics. This industry has strong armed lobbyists not only on the local and states fronts, but in Washington, D.C., and throughout the WORLD. They are a global empire that detests any form of competition.

    Every representative Nevada has, is supported by gaming. The little guy American/Nevadan citizen has little chance of changing the gaming landscape.

    Yet, the all powerful Nevada Gaming industry has expanded and extended itself beyond Nevada's borders: developing and investing in gaming/resort properties in other states within the USA, building mega gaming properties overseas outside the USA, and involving themselves with online gaming. They pay a pittance in taxes here in Nevada, and they will keep it that way, considering their political influence and use of strong-armed tactics threatening casino workers.

    The good People of Nevada have repeatedly bowed to gaming, even voting down the lottery at the voting polls (thanks to a combination of threats to casino workers' & construction jobs and the disenting votes of hardcore churched people). Citizens who live in fear will reason that to vote down a lottery will save their jobs and way of living. And FEAR tactics have been used over and over in advertisements on air and print on a massive scale, it is quite an effective strategy.

    The effect of having a lottery in Nevada will be marginal at best. The Constitution allows us the freedom to pursue happiness (as long as there is no real harm done). Commenters have presented some compelling points for the lottery. Only a few commenters posted disent against the lottery.

    Commenter Paul Gelsman noted that "There are 11 casinos in PA. There are 260 casinos in Nevada. The 11 PA casinos pay more in taxes than all of the casinos in Nevada. There is definitely something wrong with this picture!"

    Politico stated, "If casinos don't want a lottery raise them to 8%. that's still 52% yes 52% less than they pay in Maccau."

    Commenter Buddy suggested an alternative that brings customers into casinos to play, and dedicates some on the monies to education, "Why doesn't the casino industry be proactive on this issue and disarm the education-fund-seeking-lottery-proponents by picking one (or more) of their games (video poker?) and decide to donate 55% of the net proceeds of that game towards state education or a state scholarship fund." Good one, I think. That is a fair compromise, although it sure does take away the thrill/entertainment of picking numbers and waiting for the drawing for lottery players. And THAT might be the con for such a suggestion, as folks who do play the lottery enjoy the excitement, thrill, and mystery anticipating their luck making a win!

    But either way, somethings gotta give with this lottery situation here in Nevada. People want the lottery service and they won't quit asking for it or driving to other states to play.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  12. usecommonsense says "Let the People of Nevada VOTE on having a LOTTERY"

    Wow, you must not have lived here long. The voters have addressed the issue a number of times and each and every time the majority has voted to NOT have a lottery.

    Even Star acknowledges that the voters keep rejecting a lottery, though she ascribes it to a nefarious conspiracy and massive voter intimidation and fraud. (odd that's what the minority says every time the majority rejects their agenda huh?)

    But as I said before, the process is right there. Get off your butt, print up the petitions, collect the signatures, get the intiative on the ballot and the voters will get another opportunity to vote it down.