Lawmakers urged to pass lottery resolution


CARSON CITY -- A 16-year-old Clark County high school student pleaded for legislators Tuesday to pass a resolution that could allow Nevadans to vote to establish a state lottery.

Daniel Waqar said a lottery would not be a panacea for the state's budget woes, but studies show it would bring in $40 million to $60 million a year that could be earmarked for education.

"Millions of dollars that fund education in California and Arizona would stay here," Waqar said, referring to many Southern Nevadans who cross state lines to buy lottery tickets, including those who did so last week to play Mega Millions, which had a $319 million jackpot.

The gaming industry has opposed moves by the Legislature to start a state lottery, which is prohibited by the state constitution .

But no gaming representatives testified against the lottery resolution in Tuesday's sparsely attended hearing of the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee.

Chairman David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said that he might hold another hearing and that he planned to conduct a vote on Senate Joint Resolution 1 during an April 14 workshop.

The resolution might have the favor of only two of the five committee members, legislators said.

The Legislature repeatedly has rejected moves to legalize a lottery -- now allowed in 44 states -- since the 1970s.

Even Parks, who supported lotteries in the past, said he had "mixed emotions" about the resolution.

He said he grew up in New Hampshire, which legalized lotteries to raise funds for education more than 50 years ago.

"The revenue projections for education never materialized," Parks said after the hearing.

SJR1 was proposed by the Nevada Youth Legislature in 2009. Waqar was a member of that Legislature, designed to allow young people to learn about state government. Members, who are appointed by their state senators, can submit one bill each session to the Legislature for possible enactment into law.

But Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, said the youth legislature in 2010 voted 15-3 against the lottery proposal. She advises the group.

Gaming lobbyists did not testify Tuesday, but several leaders of conservative groups called for the committee to reject the proposal.

"The No. 1 industry in Nevada is gaming," Independent American Party President John Wagner said. "The state should not be in business competing against the No. 1 business."

Nevada Eagle Forum lobbyists Lynn Chapman and Janine Hansen argued against the lottery proposal, contending it will increase gaming addiction and saying lottery players often are poor people who should not be gambling.

Chapman said a McGill University student found that high school dropouts are four times as likely to play lotteries as college graduates.

Hansen said that she has faced gambling addiction in her family and that she feared young people could find ways to buy lottery tickets and start on the road to addiction.

Because the resolution calls for amending the state constitution, it must be approved by legislators this session and again in 2013 to advance. Then it would be put before voters in the 2014 general election.

If it passed, legislators would have to approve legislation on how lotteries would be conducted and name a committee to oversee the state lottery in the 2015 session.

A state lottery probably could not start before October 2015.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

 

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