A Nevada Assembly panel voted Thursday to back a plan for a lottery in the nation's No. 1 gambling state, despite arguments that it would compete with slot machines and other games of chance.
The Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments Committee voted 7-3 to send AJR7, the latest version of a plan that has failed about two dozen times since the 1970s to win legislative approval, to the full Assembly.
"Let the voters decide," said freshman Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, chief sponsor of AJR7, which would have to win approval from lawmakers this year and again in 2011 and then go to a public vote.
Critics included representatives of Terrible Herbst Inc. which has slot machines in about 90 service stations, Station Casinos, Boyd Gaming Corp. and the Nevada Tavern Owners Association.
Russell Rowe of Boyd Gaming said a lottery would hurt other aspects of Nevada's gambling industry, adding that lotteries have odds that are so high that they amount to what's been termed "a tax on stupidity."
Tom Clark of the tavern owners' group said the bar owners are struggling as it is because of the poor economy, and "every buck spent on the lottery is a buck not spent in our establishments."
Aizley's plan, which has 22 co-signers including Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, would remove a prohibition against lotteries that's now part of the Nevada Constitution.
When the idea came up during the 2007 session, proponents argued unsuccessfully that a lottery could generate up to $200 million for the state. But lawmakers also got a gambling industry report estimating a lottery would pull in $51 million in profits for the state, but those gains would be offset by a net loss of jobs.
Lotteries are operated in all but eight states now, and experts on such games estimate that Americans spent $57 billion on lottery tickets in 2006 alone-with no more than 2 percent of any of the ticket sales going into any state's coffers. The rest of the money went to pay for prizes and other expenses.