A proposal that would allow Wyoming residents to play Powerball without going out of state officially died Monday, but its sponsor is not giving up.
"The bill will be back next year if I am elected," Rep. Dave Edwards, R-Douglas, said.
House Bill 20, which had seven Republican and four Democratic co-sponsors, was killed by Sen. Delaine Roberts, R-Etna, chairman of the Senate Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee.
Roberts did not schedule HB20 for debate before Monday's noon deadline for reporting bills out of committee. He said the committee did not receive the measure in time to give supporters and opponents around the state proper notice of a hearing.
The House passed the state lottery bill last Tuesday 32-24. It was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday and sent to Roberts' committee that day.
"It's a very controversial bill," Roberts said. "It came to us in a late hour. My concern would be that we should have had a public hearing on it and that it involve more people than just in the surrounding area."
"If we had the bill in time, we would have probably heard it," he said.
Edwards wasn't buying it.
"I am very disappointed to lose a bill not on the merits of the bill but on the manipulation of the process," he said. "That bill had plenty of support throughout the state with the exception of one religious bloc."
"This has nothing to do with religion," Edwards said. "If you don't believe in gambling, don't gamble. Don't force your views on me."
Edwards said he disagrees with opponents' concerns that a lottery will increase social ills and take money from the poor.
He said bingo, which is legal in Wyoming, offers more instant gratification to addicted gamblers than lottery. Also, he said, "We don't need to save the poor people from themselves. They're just as smart as you or I. They don't need us to make decisions for them."
Edwards said residents who cross the border to play the lottery in the five surrounding states that offer it take not only gambling dollars out of Wyoming but also money from stores, gas stations and restaurants.
Roberts, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said media reports incorrectly characterized his reasons for killing the bill as related to his LDS background.
"I don't believe in any phase of gambling," he said, "but I want to be objective about it, too. I don't think that (religion) had anything to do with my decision."
He said he did receive a number of negative e-mails on HB20.
"You're down here representing your constituents, and I heard from maybe two of them who liked the bill. The others were pretty much opposed."
"I admire Rep. Edwards for all the time and effort he put into it," Roberts said. "That was an important bill to some people."
Last year, the House Corporations Committee voted 8-1 to recommend a lottery bill sponsored by Edwards.
However, the Senate Revenue Committee defeated a similar measure 4-1, so the House bill was not brought up for debate by House Majority Floor Leader Randall Luthi, R-Freedom.
In 2001, the House Travel Committee voted 5-4 for a lottery bill, but the legislation failed 33-27 on the House floor.
In 1999, the House Revenue Committee voted 5-4 against a lottery bill.
Several gambling bills were introduced in 1993, including ones creating a lottery, allowing video gaming and allowing local-option gambling, but all failed to make it out of committee.