CARSON CITY — A proposed constitutional amendment to legalize a Nevada state lottery cleared a hurdle Wednesday when the Assembly backed the plan on a 31-11 vote.
Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, acknowledged there are as many arguments against lotteries as for them, but he pointed out his Assembly Joint Resolution 7 simply would let citizens decide for themselves.
“I introduced this as the bill that never dies and heard someone in the background say, ‘It is the bill that never lives,'” he added.
Aizley said at least 24 attempts to legalize a state lottery have been made since the 1970s. He said 43 states now operate state lotteries.
Lotteries have been outlawed under the state constitution written since Nevada became a state in 1864.
Before lotteries are permitted in the state, the state Senate this year also must approve the resolution.
Both houses of the Legislature have to approve it again in 2011. Then Nevada voters would decide in the 2012 general election whether to allow lotteries.
In speaking for the bill, Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, noted she had a California lottery ticket in her pocket.
“Wish me luck tonight,” she joked.
Pierce mentioned that Nevadans clearly want a lottery because the most lucrative outlets for California lottery sales are shops near the Nevada border.
Twenty-seven of the 28 Assembly Democrats and four of the 14 Republicans supported the lottery resolution.
Assemblyman Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, was the only Democrat to vote against AJR7. Republicans John Carpenter of Elko, Pete Goicoechea of Eureka, Tom Grady of Yerington and Ed Goedhart of Amargosa Valley joined the 27 Democrats in backing the lottery.
Aizley said he has not done any polls to determine whether the Senate will back his plan but said many citizens are e-mailing legislators to support a lottery. Democrats control the Senate this year for the first time since 1991, and they traditionally have supported a state lottery.
Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, spoke against the lottery plan, contending it would hurt the gaming industry.
“If there ever was a time for a lottery, then this is not the time,” she said. “Gaming companies in Nevada are hemorrhaging.”
In an interview, Aizley said his research shows that lottery players are not the type of people who gamble in casinos.
He also said lottery players tend to be middle-income people, but acknowledged that others challenge that view.
In previous sessions, gaming industry lobbyists said poor people play lotteries and noted the odds of winning a lottery are astronomical.
Two years ago, Boyd Gaming and Station Casinos released a study that found a lottery would create 316 new jobs in Nevada, while eliminating 595 jobs in the gaming and hospitality industry.
A state lottery, according to the study, would bring in $48 million a year in profits for the state.