CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A Wyoming House committee advanced a bill on Tuesday that would allow the state to join the multi-state Powerball lottery. The profits would go to fix county and city roads.
The sole purpose of House Bill 77 is to provide "entertainment," said the sponsor, Rep. David Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne.
The bill establishes a quasi state corporation with nine members appointed by the governor. The corporation's job is to develop a business plan and to find money to run the lottery.
"If they can't get that done, no lottery," Zwonitzer said.
The House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee advanced the bill to the house floor for debate on a 6-3 vote.
Supporters included Mike Moser, representing the retail liquor dealers who want to be able to sell their customers lottery tickets.
Based on the Georgia model, the Wyoming lottery will make money, Moser said. A 2010 study estimated profits of $20 million to $40 million a year.
He noted that a cafe located south of Cheyenne sells $3 million worth of Colorado Powerball lottery tickets every year.
Supporters expect that 45 percent of the lottery ticket net proceeds would go toward prizes.
Opponents included Chesie Lee, representing the Wyoming Association of Churches, who said providing entertainment is not a role of state government.
A lottery is most attractive to low-income people with lower levels of education and is like a tax on the poor, Lee said.
Maureen Emrich of Casper, representing the Wyoming Family Coalition, said it will cost three times as much to treat gambling addicts as the lottery will generate in revenue.
The bill allocates up to $200,000 from unclaimed lottery winnings to the Wyoming Department of Health to treat people with gambling addictions.
Becky Vanderberghe of WyWatch Family Action questioned why the Legislature would want to adopt something the nation's founding father said was immoral.