Casper resident Larry Griffith thought surely this was the year for Wyoming to finally join a multi-state lottery.
Griffith has been buying Nebraska lottery tickets for years, and said Wyoming is losing big money to adjacent states.
So Griffith was not happy when the state House on Monday voted 31-27 to kill yet another attempt to legalize a lottery in the state.
"I think it's pathetic," he said.
After a half-dozen previous attempts to legalize lottery by the state Legislature, this year's bid seemed to be gaining momentum. A legislative panel spent two years crafting what its members thought was a strong bill. Newspaper polls showed solid statewide support.
But just minutes into Monday evening's House debate, it became clear the bill was in trouble.
Representatives from the Evanston area, home of the state's only horse racing operation, said a lottery would kill Wyoming's horse racing heritage.
Other lawmakers took issue with a provision that earmarked the first $5 million in lottery profits to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department rather than the state general fund.
Still others said a lottery would hurt Wyoming's poorest residents with gambling addiction and loss of income.
"I fail to see why government should be encouraging and facilitating gambling in the state of Wyoming," said Rep. Allen Jaggi, R-Lyman.
Religion played a role in defeating the bill. Rep. Rodney "Pete" Anderson, R-Pine Bluffs, a Baptist, quoted Scripture during passionate testimony against the bill. A representative of the Mormon church in Wyoming voiced opposition to the bill in committee testimony last summer.
The strong state economy also played a role in toppling the bill. During harder times, lawmakers have highlighted the lottery as a new revenue stream and a way to diversify the economy. The argument enjoyed little traction this time around.
Officials from Wyoming Downs in Evanston and Wyoming Off-Track Betting in Cheyenne, Casper and Rock Springs may have swayed some lawmakers with estimates about the potential damage to their industry and the cost of running the lottery.
The horse racing industry officials probably convinced some undecided lawmakers to oppose the bill, according to Rep. David Edwards, R-Douglas, who was disappointed so many opposed the bill in spite of the statewide polls.
"It's just stupidity," said Edwards, a frequent sponsor of lottery legislation.
Four House members who supported lottery measures in the past voted against this year's version.
One of them, Rep. Tom Lockhart, R-Casper, said he didn't like the idea of growing government to accommodate a lottery. And he believed the administrative costs of several hundreds thousand dollars a year did not justify the investment by the state.
Rep. Frank Philp, R-Shoshoni, co-sponsor of a previous lottery bill, voted "nay" on Monday because he said the payoff for the state was just too small. The Legislative Service Office predicted it would cost around $1 million to create the lottery for about $1.4 million in annual profits.
"For all the investment in it, I didn't think that was a lot of money," Philp said.
Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, supported the bill in 2005, but changed his vote this year because he believes lottery profits should not go to the Game and Fish Department, which he said is too politically divisive and could hurt sales of lottery tickets.
"I think for a lot of people, it just wasn't the year to do it," Gingery said.
Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete, changed his vote based on a conversation with members of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, who believe a lottery would have competed with their casinos in Ethete and outside Riverton.
"I opposed it basically because the tribe has asked me to oppose it, and that is a huge part of my constituency," Goggles said.
Another force that helped kill the bill was this year's large class of freshman House members.
Freshman Rep. Lisa Shepperson, R-Casper, said the rate of return wasn't high enough to justify all the expense to the state.
"By the time everybody had their paws in it, there wasn't enough return to make the investment," said Shepperson, who has a background in finance.
Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody, chairman of the legislative committee that spent two years crafting the bill, said his committee won't take up the bill again on his recommendation.
But Edwards said a lottery bill will surely be back again.
"We'll get new people in here," he said. "It's worth trying again and again and again until we come to our senses."