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Supporters, opponents of state lottery face off

CARSON CITY — Members of Nevada’s Democratic-run state Assembly went before a Republican-controlled Senate panel on Tuesday, pushing a lottery proposal that had won approval in the Assembly on a mostly party-line vote.

Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to support Assembly Joint Resolution 5, citing a 1999 Gallup poll that found more than 70 percent of Nevadans surveyed want a lottery. The money generated could be used by schools to buy textbooks and computers, said Kihuen.

“The money is used to supplement, not supplant, money given to the school district,” said Kihuen. “The lottery is so popular among Nevadans, they’re driving to California to buy lottery tickets. Nevadans should not be funding Californians’ education.”

Opponents from casino companies said lotteries don’t create the investment and well-paying jobs that casinos do. They also argued that amending the Nevada Constitution to allow a lottery would produce a regressive tax on the poor, who tend to spend a higher proportion of their income on lotteries.

“The state, in effect, becomes the competitor to the state’s biggest industry,” said Bill Bible, president of the Nevada Resort Association, which represents most major hotel-casinos.

Convenience stores that have only a small number of gambling machines would be especially hard-hit, Bible added.

A gambling industry report estimated a lottery would pull in $51 million in profits for the state, but those gains would be offset by a net loss of jobs.

In previous hearings, Kihuen has said the lottery could pull in between $50 million and $200 million for the state’s schools.

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, said calling the lottery a tax was a misnomer.

“You name me a tax where the public has a choice. How a person can call that regressive — I don’t understand it,” said Conklin.

Conklin added that there’s no proof other states with lotteries experienced any kind of job losses.

Comparisons with other states aren’t relevant, said Bible, noting that other states don’t have the kind of “wide-open gambling” and large service-sector work force that Nevada has.

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