New bill would allow for creation of lottery in casino-dominated state
By Kate Northrop
Nevada lawmakers are discussing a bill that would allow for the creation of a state lottery.
A new bill was formally introduced to Nevada Legislature on Tuesday that would give the state the ability to create and regulate "modern lotteries."
The bill, AJR 5, states that that the Nevada Constitution prohibited the state from authorizing a lottery and the sale of lottery tickets in 1864 to "protect the public from harm" caused by lotteries "plagued by fraud, corruption, mismanagement and abuse because they were largely unregulated by state governments."
In 1990, Nevada's voters approved constitutional amendments that allowed for the operation and regulation of charitable lotteries conducted by nonprofit organizations in the form of raffles or drawings, as long as they are operated "honestly and free from criminal and corruptive elements" and that the proceeds from those lotteries benefit charitable or nonprofit organizations in the state.
AJR 5 will enable the Legislature to enact a government-regulated state lottery and prevent any other person, organization, or entity to operate a lottery or sell lottery tickets. An existing provision would still allow charitable groups to run their own lotteries.
Some lawmakers argue that Nevada residents are traveling across state borders to play the lottery as it is, and that it would be in the state's interest to keep those dollars within its own jurisdiction.
"Nevadans are already playing the lottery in a very significant way, putting lots of money into the good and worthy programs that support youth in other states," Assemblyman CH Miller, the co-sponsor of the bill, said.
Labor unions have also announced their support for a state lottery because it would garner more funding for additional resources. One union in particular, the Culinary Union, had several members come forward during public comment to say that they would be able to expand access to mental health services.
However, the bill is receiving backlash from gaming companies, whose representatives contended that a lottery doesn't have the same structure as other gaming operators to create a positive economic impact beyond collecting revenue for the state. Nick Vassiliades, speaking on behalf of the Nevada Resort Association, also pointed out that there is no language in the bill that specifically mentions funding for mental health.
"I think that the importance of our brick-and-mortar establishments can never be over-valued," Vassiliades asserted. "Those are construction jobs. Those are service and maintenance jobs. Those are operation jobs. There are support industries that pop up all around these cities to support directly gaming, tourism [and] hospitality, but also the support industries that popped up just to meet the demand of cities that rapidly grew around an industry that is first in the world."
If passed in the current legislative session, the bill will have to pass in an additional legislative session in 2025 and then be ratified by voters in order for it to become law.