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Effort to repeal Nevada’s lottery ban clears first step

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Published on:
Mar/27/2009

By David McGrath Schwartz of the Las Vegas Sun

The persistent attempt to legalize the lottery in Nevada cleared its first hurdle on Thursday, when an Assembly committee passed a joint resolution.

Assembly Joint Resolution 7 would repeal the provision in Nevada's constitution that prohibit state lotteries. It would have to pass this Legislative session, and pass again in the 2011 session. It would then go before voters in 2012.

Casino company lobbyists and libertarian advocates testified against it, arguing it would be state competition of Nevada's number one industry. Russell Rowe, a lobbyist for Boyd Gaming, pointed out the long odds of winning the lottery.

"That's why some call it a tax on stupidity," he said.

Leslie Pittman, representing Station Casinos, said lottery administrators are constantly trying to get more tickets sold.

"They're motivating nonplayers to play, players to play more often, and those who have stopped playing to play again," Pittman said.

Tom Clark, a lobbyist who represents taverns and barns, said those businesses have been "absolutely crushed" recently.

"Gaming dollars are a precious resource for the state," he said. "Every dollar spent on lottery, is a dollar not spent on a cheesebuger or refreshing adult beverage. It's another force competing with us for that precious resource."

Democrats on the committee appeared unmoved. Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas, chair of the committee, many Nevadans go to California to buy lottery tickets."

The measure passed the Committee on Elections, Procedures, Ethics, and Constitutional Amendments with seven aye votes, three no votes and three committee members absent.

Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, and Assemblyman James Settlemeyer, R-Gardnerville voted against the bill.

The bill now goes to the full Assembly, where it's expected to pass. It will then go to the state Senate, where it has died in the past. Because Democrats hold the majority, it has a better chance than in the past. Yet some lobbyists believe there are some votes -- Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, has voted against legalizing the lottery in the past -- to upend the efforts.

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