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What’s next for the Nevada lottery proposal?

Nevadans are one legislative step closer to buying scratch off tickets at a local retailer after state lawmakers approved a procedural vote to establish a state lottery system.

A proposed measure to start such a process cleared the state Legislature during the 2023 regular session. The state Senate voted 12-8 on AJR5, a proposed constitutional amendment removing the prohibition on state lotteries, on May 26 — about a month after the Assembly passed its measure.

But the legislation didn’t head straight to the governor’s desk for approval. Instead, it requires passage in two successive legislative sessions, then ratification by voters in the next general election because it would change the state’s constitution.

That means Nevada voters could weigh in as soon as 2026.

Assemblyman C.H. Miller, who spearheaded the effort, said now it’s a waiting game and future success is dependent on the makeup of the next Legislature. A bill in the 2025 session has to be the same as the one passed this year.

“I’m hoping that we’re all re-elected,” Miller said. “I think that this body has indicated that there’s a willingness to move this forward. We still have another election to go through to see if the next legislative body will also want to see the voters get an opportunity to vote on this.”

Miller is hopeful that constituent interest will help, too. An April poll by the Nevada Independent and Noble Predictive Insights found roughly 71 percent of respondents said they would support the creation of a statewide lottery.

According to the California Lottery, the state’s two largest ticket retailers by annual revenue are The Lotto Store in Primm Valley and the Gold Ranch in Verdi, California. Both are directly across the Nevada state line.

“I look around and I see continuously how much money people in our state are spending going to other states,” Miller said. “It doesn’t make sense for us to not have it. The people of Nevada, by and large, come from states where they have access to lotteries.”

There have been more than two dozen attempts to allow for a state lottery in Nevada, all without success. The state’s gambling industry lobbied against the idea and remains opposed today.

Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resorts Association, said the group will continue raising concerns about a lottery’s effect on “the state’s economic engine.”

“Unlike the gaming industry, lotteries provide almost no employment and create no economic development or capital investment,” Valentine said in a statement.

Democrats propose using a state lottery for a reliable revenue stream for youth mental health services. During the session, Culinary Local 226 lobbied the state in support of the idea. But the proposed amendment makes no mention of how the revenue could be used — or even how a lottery could be established.

Miller said that was intentional so lawmakers and voters could first decide to remove the lottery prohibition. But his goal is to set up a lottery system that funds support for that issue.

“If I’m a part of that legislative body that’s actually standing up the lottery, I’m going to be saying, asking, pleading — if I’m the one leading it or someone else — that we need to make sure that this funding goes to mental health,” he said.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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