Don’t take a chance on state lottery
October 2, 2002
It may seem like the height of hypocrisy that Nevada has no state lottery.
While Nevada continues to maintain a reputation worldwide as a leading innovator in casino gaming, slot-machine technology and mega-resort development, the rest of the country has passed it by in the oh-so-popular world of state lotteries.
Why? We’d like to think it’s because Nevada kept to the principled notion that state government has no business being in the gambling business.
But the reality is the private gaming industry didn’t want the competition. Because the private gaming industry holds sway over the Nevada Legislature, implementation of a state lottery never stood much of a chance.
But it’s a different world today.
Out of desperation, state after state went into the lottery business more than two decades ago. When even the Bible-belters lost the argument over state-operated gambling to Lotto fever, the door was opened to the influx of gaming that has swept across the nation since.
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The high moral ground was lost when state legislators told their constituents, “Look, either we start a lottery to help pay for our schools, or we raise your property taxes again.”
Now, in Nevada some lawmakers are beginning to sing the same tune. A looming deficit in the state budget and the prospect of raising all kinds of taxes has them wondering if a Nevada Lottery might be the fix they’re looking for.
First, with estimated revenue of $50 million a year, it would fix only a fraction of a $300 million-plus deficit. All the hard decisions will still be on the table.
Second, it is indeed competition with Nevada’s No. 1 private industry. Many of those lottery dollars go to California now, it’s true, but many would come out of casinos’ nickel slot machines.
Third, it’s still a bad idea for state government to be in the gambling business. Of all the things we expect a government to do, running a lottery has to be close to the bottom.
One more thing: We’d hope Nevada residents have enough gambling savvy to stay away from a lottery. The odds are horrible.
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