Passage of Nevada lottery bill is only the first step in a four-year process
A resolution to legalize a Nevada state lottery was approved 33-9 Monday in the Assembly after supporters emphasized profits would buy textbooks for schoolchildren.
"Nevadans already buy lottery tickets," said Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson. "They buy them in California. California kids have schoolbooks. Nevada kids don't."
In an earlier hearing, Perkins cited a poll showing that 73 percent of Nevadans support legalizing a state lottery. No one testified against the resolution during a hearing last week.
But don't count on buying lottery tickets soon.
The Assembly vote on Assembly Joint Resolution 2 is only the first step in a four-year process to amend the constitution, which has prohibited lotteries since Nevada became a state in 1864.
AJR 2 now goes to the Senate for additional hearings and a vote. If senators back the resolution, then both houses of the Legislature would consider it again in 2007, and voters would consider it in the 2008 general election. If the resolution wins all three approvals, the Legislature in 2009 would decide just how a Nevada lottery would be conducted.
Twenty-four of the 26 Assembly Democrats backed the resolution Monday, as did nine of the 16 Republicans.
Mo Denis of Las Vegas and Bob McCleary of North Las Vegas were the only Democrats to oppose the resolution.
In a news conference before the vote, Sen. Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, expressed confidence that the Senate will approve the lottery resolution. He noted it has the support of Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno.
Gov. Kenny Guinn does not sign resolutions to change the constitution. Three years ago, the Governor's Task Force on Tax Policy, however, voted 6-0 in favor of legalizing lotteries.
It's the 23rd attempt since 1975 to bring a state-run lottery to Nevada.
In the past, the gaming industry has opposed lotteries, complaining they compete for gaming dollars. Horsford said efforts are being made to alleviate the industry's concerns.
He did not say how legislators will reduce gaming industry opposition, only that "talks have just begun."
Contacted in Las Vegas, Nevada Resort Association President Bill Bible said the gaming industry has not taken a position this session, nor did it in 2003 on the legalization of a lottery.
But he said some association members, such as Station Casinos and Boyd Resorts, oppose the legalization of lotteries.
"One of the primary issues clearly is the state operating a lottery in competition with the mainstream business of this state, gaming," he added.
Perkins estimated a state lottery to bring in $40 million to $70 million a year in profits. The money would be earmarked for the school districts and funds used to buy textbooks and other school supplies, or to reduce class sizes.
Numerous states, including California, Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia, use profits from lotteries for education.
During the Assembly floor debate, Assemblyman Garn Mabey, R-Las Vegas, said he would support legislation to ensure students have textbooks, but not a state lottery.
"History has been a great teacher," Mabey said. "Unfortunately, those who least can afford it spend proportionately more on lotteries. In effect, the poor may suffer more on the hope of sudden wealth."
Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, challenged Mabey's statement.
She said only eight states do not have lotteries. Those with lotteries have found that middle-income and wealthier people actually play the lottery more than those who earn less than $20,000 a year.
"It doesn't bear out arguments that poor are more likely to play," Buckley said.
Mabey said after the vote that Buckley's statistics are accurate, but noted studies have shown that the poor spend a greater percentage of their incomes on lottery tickets than the rich.
Some legislators simply supported the resolution because it is what the public wants.
"There is a lot of support for a lottery in my district," said Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko. "A lot of people won't play 21 or put a nickel in a slot machine, but will play the lottery."
While opposed to a lottery, Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, R-Reno, said a bill is being drafted to use interest income on state investments to buy more textbooks for children.
She predicted school district will use lottery profits for class-size reduction and students still will not have textbooks.
Republicans who voted for the lottery resolution were Francis Allen and Scott Sibley of Las Vegas, Tom Grady of Yerington, John Marvel of Battle Mountain, Bob Seale of Henderson, Pete Goicoechea of Eureka, Brooks Holcomb and Heidi Gansert, both of Reno and Carpenter.
Those who voted against the lottery were Republicans Lynn Hettrick of Gardnerville, Rod Sherer of Pahrump, Valerie Weber and Chad Christensen, both of Las Vegas, Joe Hardy of Boulder City, Angle and Mabey and Democrats Denis and McCleary.