On a split vote, the Wyoming House narrowly defeated legislation allowing residents to play the Powerball lottery.
The vote was 29-29, two votes shy of passage, with two representatives excused.
"Nothing in this bill talks about the addiction," said Rep. Rodney "Pete" Anderson, R-Pine Bluffs, who led the opposition.
"It preys upon those who are on the fringe. ... Instead of buying things the family needs, they're buying lottery tickets. They're buying a lot of false hope."
He also argued that state government should not be trying to lure people to play games of chance.
"What business does the state have in promoting gambling?" Anderson said.
The bill would have allowed Wyoming to join 27 states that now offer Powerball, including five of Wyoming's six surrounding states. Fifteen other states sponsor non-Powerball lotteries.
Oversight of Wyoming's lottery would have come from the Pari-Mutuel Commission, with proceeds going to early childhood development, senior services and state parks and historic sites.
Last year, the House passed a lottery bill 32-24, but the measure was killed in the Senate. Before that, the legislation had never been passed by either chamber.
Rep. Stephen Watt, R-Rock Springs, said politicians love lotteries because they feed an appetite for revenue without tax hikes. Lottery dollars don't augment government services but simply are substituted for other income, he said, and they foster a get-rich-quick mentality.
Proponents argued that a Wyoming lottery would keep money from leaving the state.
"Bottom line, there's a lot of people in this state who want to play lottery," Rep. Wayne Reese, D-Cheyenne, said. "Why not let them have the choice whether to buy those tickets in Wyoming? This is about choice. If you don't want to play, you don't have to."
Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, agreed.
"The premise against this bill is we must somehow save people from themselves," he said. "It's not my job to legislate morality to people. ... It's not our duty as legislators to regulate the free will of our constituents."
But issues of revenue, choice and morality pale in comparison to the harm that lottery can cause, said Rep. Jerry Iekel, R-Sheridan.
"There is a socioeconomic impact of gambling," he said.
The two representatives who were excused from debate were Pete Jorgensen, D-Jackson, and Burke Jackson, R-Rozet.