Lottery proposal killed by Senate Judiciary

Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins' plan to create a lottery to help fund public education in Nevada died quickly in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Perkins, D-Henderson, and Sen. Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, told the committee Nevada is bordered by four states with lotteries and that an estimated 30 percent of Clark County residents play those lotteries.

They said the California lottery outlets located along major highways into Nevada are that state's highest grossing lottery outlets.

"Money that could stay in our state is helping California students," Perkins said.

Horsford said the store at Primm on I-15 south of Las Vegas sold $7.8 million in lottery tickets last year and the Gold Ranch outlet on I-80 west of Reno sold $5 million.

"Nevada citizens and tourists alike make runs to the border to buy lottery tickets," he said. "They benefit citizens in those states, not Nevada."

They told the committee a Nevada lottery would generate $40-$50 million a year which, in their proposal, would be earmarked for books, instructional supplies, hardware and/or class-size reduction.

But, after almost three hours testimony, Horsford's motion to vote the proposed amendment out of committee died 5-2. Only fellow Democrat Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, was with him. Chairman mark Amodei and the other members of Judiciary including Democrat Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, voted no.

That kills the measure unless Horsford can convince two-thirds of the committee to reconsider it.

Amodei said there is a lot of other money in the budget that could be earmarked for books, instructional supplies and class-size reduction without creating a completely new infrastructure to operate a lottery.

"If they want to encumber $50 million for these proposals, pick a funding source and take a piece of it," he said.

He said he personally is uncomfortable with simply removing the ban on lotteries from Nevada's constitution without spelling out what type of system would be put in. He said supporters should have spelled that out or, better yet, introduced a companion piece of legislation setting out how the lottery system would work.

Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, questioned whether a lottery in Nevada would amount to "robbing Peter to pay Paul." He said some casino officials have raised the argument any money spent on lottery tickets in Nevada would simply be money not gambled in their establishments.

And Care said he isn't convinced it's appropriate.

"I'm concerned the people who can least afford it are the ones who do it," he said referring to studies showing the poorest citizens are the ones who buy lottery tickets.

Horsford said he doesn't buy the argument a lottery would take away play from Nevada casinos.

"I think those opponents need to demonstrate how they're going to lose market share," he said.

But even if partly true, he said that just raises the question, "Is market share more important than our children's education?"

The proposal doesn't set specifics of how a lottery would operate in Nevada. Assembly Joint Resolution 2 would simply remove the prohibition on a lottery from the Nevada Constitution.

"They voted against providing some additional funding for education," said Horsford.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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