Nevada lawmakers in the Assembly voted 31 – 11 this week in favour of a proposal to introduce a state lottery in the gambling state, despite fears that such a move could compete with slot machines and other games of chance. The measure now goes to the state Senate for further debate and ultimately a public vote.
AJR7 is the latest version of a plan that has failed to win approval in numerous attempts dating back to the ‘seventies, reports the Associated Press news agency.
"It's time to have the people of Nevada decide whether or not they want a lottery," said Democratic Party Assemblyman Paul Aizley, who introduced the bill.
Opponents included Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, a Reno Republican, who said, "If there was ever a time for a lottery, I would say this is not the time. Our gaming industries in this state are hemorrhaging. They're such a large industry in this state, and I would hate to cannibalize them."
Another Reno Republican, Assemblyman Ty Cobb, added that [land] casinos have already been hit by the economic downturn and by a state smoking ban that went into effect in 2006. "A lot of the small tavern owners and those types of operations are really hurting right now in this economy," Cobb said.
Supporters of the proposal took a different view, pointing out that budget shortfalls due to the tough economic climate made it necessary for legislators to look at different ways in which to raise revenues.
"I am so frustrated because I hear day after day about our inability to fund our education system," said Democrat Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, who added that she hears from many constituents who support the idea to bring money to "woefully underfunded" education.
"I want to give the voters in my district and this state the opportunity to have this choice," she said.
Fellow Democrat Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, said that polls show that 70 percent of the public supports the idea of a state lottery.
Lotteries are operated in all but eight American states now, and experts on such games estimate that Americans spent $57 billion on lottery tickets in 2006 alone – with no more than 2 percent of any of the ticket sales going into any state's coffers, reports Associated Press. The rest of the money went to pay for prizes and other expenses.
"We've heard over and over … that the most lucrative place that California sells their lottery tickets is on the Nevada border," said Democrat Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce. "I have a lottery ticket in my pocket," she said, "Wish me luck tonight."
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