Citing widespread opposition, California Assemblyman George Plescia on Monday dropped lottery-backed legislation that would have added Nevada-style gambling themes to the state-run games.
Though he quietly deleted the amendment, the San Diego Republican said he's pushing the rest of his controversial measure -- which would boost lottery prizes and slice struggling schools' share of revenue -- in the hope of fostering lotto mania that would then increase education's take.
Even with the deletion of the hard-core themes -- such as roulette, dice, baccarat, blackjack, Lucky 7s, draw poker and slot machines -- foes of the first overhaul of the 20-year-old lottery in two decades fear it would push California closer to becoming the gambling capital of the world.
The lottery is seeking the overhaul and hoped the Nevada-style gambling themes would boost its total lotto and scratch-off ticket sales, which have suffered with the expansion of Indian casinos.
The lottery reorganization, AB 2938, faces its first legislative test June 14 in the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee.
Plescia said newspaper reports on the gambling-theme amendment last week triggered a furor among anti-gambling groups -- and even worse, among supporters of the overall lottery reorganization bill.
"We changed it back to the way the bill was originally, so we will still have the theme restrictions as in current law," Plescia said. "Some people had concerns with doing away with those restrictions."
Nevada-style gambling themes were banned by the original engineers of the lottery initiative -- industry suppliers -- out of fear that voters would otherwise reject the measure.
Anti-gambling groups said Monday that the amendment would have worsened an overhaul that would fuel an already frightening escalation of gambling in the nation's most populous state.
Even supporters of the overall reorganization legislation, such as the California Association of School Business Officials, feared the controversy would muddy the waters and threaten the bill, Plescia said.
"It's complicated enough dealing with the education groups," considering they are divided over the reorganization as it is, he said.
The 1984 lottery-authorizing initiative, which became part of the state constitution, allows the Legislature and governor to make changes in the lottery as long as it advances the operation's education-benefiting goal.