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A Nevada Lottery? The Line Forms in California

Apr 26, 2009, 12:36 pm

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NevadaNevada: A Nevada Lottery? The Line Forms in California

PRIMM, Nev. — On a recent afternoon, lines of customers snaked to the door of the Primm Valley Lotto Store, a bustling hut just over the border in California. The parking lot was packed with cars sporting Nevada license plates.

The hut, on a dead-end street paved for the sole purpose of crossing that border, holds two important distinctions. It is the lottery ticket vendor closest to Las Vegas, 45 miles to the northeast. And it sells more lottery tickets than any other vendor in California, according to that state's lottery officials.

Despite being surrounded by the world's most famous casinos as well as slot machines in almost every corner convenience store, Nevadans love playing the numbers. But the state is one of just seven that still prohibit lotteries.

Now, faced with a budget deficit of about $3 billion and armed with opinion polls showing that more than 70 percent of residents support a lottery, state lawmakers in Carson City are considering a measure that would begin the lengthy process of legalization.

But opponents, such as legislators who call it a regressive tax that preys on the poor and owners of casinos off the Las Vegas Strip that cater to local residents and fear the competition, say they will work hard to ensure that does not happen.

"I'm getting letter after letter from people who want a lottery, and they should be able to have one," said Assemblyman Paul Aizley, Democrat of Las Vegas, who introduced a resolution to allow a lottery, which the Assembly passed last week by a vote of 31 to 11.

"The current budget problem we have is not an instant, only-now problem," Mr. Aizley said. "It will be with us for a while, so anything that can generate more revenue is worth considering."

The bill is before the Senate, where its chances are unclear, but the majority leader, Steven A. Horsford, a Democrat from the Las Vegas area, is a longtime supporter of a lottery. Mr. Horsford conceded, though, that a lottery was not the solution to the state's budget woes.

"To me," he said, "it's a small piece of a whole. This is not how we're going to get out of a $2 billion hole."

A spokesman for the California Lottery, Alex Travero, said no one tracked the percentage of tickets sold to Nevadans, but Mr. Travero noted that last year the Primm outlet sold an average of $250,425 in lottery tickets per week and that the second-highest sales outlet, Gold Ranch, 11 miles west of Reno, Nev., averaged $121,020 per week.

Joanne Sargenti was waiting in line outside Primm Valley Lotto. "Last week," Ms. Sargenti said, "the line was out to here in the parking lot, all Nevada plates, because MegaMillions was up there. I would much rather play in town if I could."

Instead, Ms. Sargenti drives here from Henderson, a Las Vegas suburb, every Tuesday to buy $200 worth of tickets.

Assuming that lottery supporters prevail, Nevadans could not hope to buy tickets before 2013 because altering the state's Constitution would require that Mr. Aizley's bill pass the Legislature twice and be approved in a statewide referendum.

Mr. Aizley said he had no revenue estimates for a Nevada lottery, but Matthew Sweeney, the author of a book titled "The Lottery Wars," said lottery states with populations similar to Nevada's realized about $60 million a year in profits.

Nevada's profits could be higher, Mr. Sweeney said, because the 40 million tourists who visit Las Vegas each year enhance the market far beyond the state's 2.6 million residents.

"It's just so inefficient because for every $1 that is collected, the state only keeps about 35 percent," Mr. Sweeney said. "But Nevada has to be so accustomed to gambling that I can't imagine there would be opposition."

But opposition there is, some of it similar to that in other states where studies have shown lotteries to be regressive taxes paid disproportionately by poor people.

State Senator John J. Lee, Democrat of Las Vegas, who has long argued against a lottery, cited his pervasive fear that "a mother would go into the store to buy two gallons of milk and a loaf of bread but play the lottery instead and leave with one gallon of milk."

An advocate for the homeless, Linda Lera-Randel El, said she had not decided how she felt about a lottery, but she noted that stores of the type referred to by Mr. Lee typically offered banks of slot machines.

"No matter where you go here, if you're washing your clothes or buying groceries, you have gambling, so if that same mother is inclined to spend $1 she can't afford on lottery tickets, she's already changing it into quarters and spending it on video poker instead," said Ms. Lera-Randel El, executive director of Straight From the Streets. "Don't say we can't have a lottery because poor people are so stupid they can't handle it."

Casino owners who oppose a lottery offer other reasons. Lori Nelson, a spokeswoman for Station Casinos, which owns 18 casinos geared to Nevada residents, asked, "Why would you want to have the state compete against its largest industry?" And Rob Stillwell of Boyd Gaming, owner of seven Las Vegas properties, said lotteries, which "can operate as kiosks" with relatively few employees, had an unfair advantage over casinos, which have the expense of infrastructure, amenities and a substantial payroll.

Mayor Oscar B. Goodman of Las Vegas, a lottery supporter, suggested something that might allay casino owners' concerns.

"Just make it so lottery tickets can only be sold in casinos," Mr. Goodman said. "I know who the best customer in the world would be: Me!"

With no lottery of their own, Nevadans who want to play the numbers visit California vendors like this one near the state line.
With no lottery of their own, Nevadans who want to play the numbers visit California vendors like this one near the state line.

NY Times

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5 comments. Last comment 13 years ago by myturn.
Page 1 of 1
United States
Member #37193
April 12, 2006
57 Posts

Why not let them play, it's the peoples right to do what they want to do with there moneyPatriot

    maringoman's avatar - images q=tbn:ANd9GcTbRxpKQmOfcCoUqF2FyqIOAwDo7rg9G-lfJLAALPGWJWwiz19eRw
    United States
    Member #37432
    April 14, 2006
    2747 Posts

    "Instead, Ms. Sargenti drives here from Henderson, a Las Vegas suburb, every Tuesday to buy $200 worth of tickets......"

    $200?? whoa! I wish I had that kind of change to spend on the lottery. Why $200 is half my paycheck for a week.  I'm curious the biggest she's ever won.

      Coin Toss's avatar - shape barbed.jpg
      Zeta Reticuli Star System
      United States
      Member #30469
      January 17, 2006
      11679 Posts

      From the OP:

      "State Senator John J. Lee, Democrat of Las Vegas, who has long arguedagainst a lottery, cited his pervasive fear that "a mother would gointo the store to buy two gallons of milk and a loaf of bread but playthe lottery instead and leave with one gallon of milk.""

      Hello, State Senator, they've been doing that with the slots and video poker machines in the stores for years. Duh.

      Those who run the lotteries love it when players look for consistency in something that's designed not to have any. So many systems, so many theories, so few jackpot winners. 


      There is one and only one 'proven' system, and that is to book the action. No matter the game, let the players pick their own losers.

        dpoly1's avatar - driver
        United States
        Member #66139
        October 16, 2008
        1998 Posts

        Government - for the Government, by the Government and of the Government !

        Not for people !

          Bondi Junction
          Member #57240
          December 24, 2007
          1102 Posts

          Nevada residence can play the Massachusetts lottery without leaving their living room!


          Save on gas and purchase a subscription on a toll free number!