CHEYENNE, Wy. — Wyomingites are one step closer to buying lottery tickets within state lines.
A bill that would allow the Cowboy State to start a state lottery or join a multi-state lottery game like Powerball cleared its first step in the House on Thursday. Similar lottery proposals failed to move much farther two and four years ago.
But House Bill 186 doesn't expand state government and doesn't require a $1 million investment to get started. Instead, the bill would set up a corporation to oversee the business of selling tickets and distributing prizes.
HB 186 earned the support of the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee by a 7-2 vote Thursday.
Mike Moser, executive director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association, pointed out that Colorado's No. 1 lottery ticket retailer sits 10 miles south of Cheyenne on the border. The location is 30 miles from the nearest Colorado community, but the outlet generates nearly $3 million each year in ticket sales.
Moser said the totals indicate that the customers are most likely from Wyoming. He added that residents who travel south to buy tickets also spend money at local shops and restaurants during the trip. And it's all money that Wyoming is losing out on.
He estimates that a lottery would raise $20 million to $40 million each year, with $8 million to $10 million going to the state's general fund after paying the bills for advertising, equipment and prizes.
Forty-five percent of the money raised by ticket sales would go toward prize payouts. And committee members had no problem with the limit. The group also liked that the profits would go toward a general lottery account and that no program would suffer because of a dip in sales.
But lawmakers eliminated a provision that $200,000 worth of unclaimed prizes go toward the Department of Health to address gambling addiction. Rep. James Byrd, D-Cheyenne, said the addition belonged in a separate bill instead of muddying up the goal of HB 186.
Rep. Allen Jaggi, R-Lyman, disagreed. He said that it would prevent the problem that HB 186 would create.
He voted against the proposal, along with Rep. Kendell Kroeker, R-Evansville. Meanwhile, the bill's supporters included Byrd; Rep. Gregg Bilkre, R-Gillette; Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan; Rep. Jim Roscoe, D-Wilson; Rep. Lisa Shepperson, R-Casper; Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper, and committee Chairman Rep. Pete Illoway, R-Cheyenne.
A proposal to allow Wyoming to host a state lottery or join a multi-state lottery game like Powerball passed out of a House committee on Thursday. House Bill 186 will now move to the floor of the House for debate, where it must pass three readings to clear the House and move to the Senate for three additional readings.