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Wyoming voters to have no say on Powerball

Dec 16, 2005, 10:57 am

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Voters won't be given a say next year on whether Wyoming should join the multi-state Powerball lottery.

The Joint Travel Committee voted 8-4 Thursday against sponsoring a bill that would have put a nonbinding referendum on the 2006 ballot.

Opponents were reluctant to endorse a public vote that ultimately doesn't force any legislative action.

Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, said the issue of establishing a lottery should be decided by lawmakers, not in a nonbinding vote by the electorate.

"It's a cop-out," he said. "We were elected to make those decisions."

He also feared unleashing a series of nonbinding votes.

"It is just an endless morass that we are causing," Brown said.

Sen. Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, agreed.

"We're trying to get some sense of what the voters are thinking. I already have a sense of what my constituents think," he said. "This is a silly expenditure of money."

Rep. Pat Childers, R-Cody, committee co-chairman, supported the measure because of doubts about Wyomingites' feelings on gambling, even though 69 percent voted against giving counties the authority to approve limited-stakes casinos in 1994.

"They didn't say no to Powerball. They said no to casino gambling," Childers said. "I think it's an issue that needs to be cleared up by the voters."

Rep. Wayne Reese, D-Cheyenne, an ardent supporter of a lottery, offered an amendment to make the public vote binding until a staffer told him that only members of the public can sponsor a binding referendum, not the Legislature.

Rep. Bill Thompson, D-Green River, said the measure is pointless because the Legislature has ultimate authority anyway.

"Duh," he said, to laughter.

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, the other co-chairman, argued that if the measure is defeated on a two-thirds introductory vote in the 2006 budget session, it could hurt the chances of a lottery bill passing in the 2007 general session by offering opponents another negative vote to highlight.

"I would rather it have a fresh start," he said.

Childers and Reese were joined by Sen. Mike Massie, D-Laramie, and Rep. Kathy Davison, R-Kemmerer, in supporting the bill.

Lottery bills narrowly failed in each of the last two sessions.

Also Thursday, the panel voted 7-5 against resurrecting legislation that was vetoed by Gov. Dave Freudenthal in the 2005 session.

The bill would have authorized "Instant Racing" machines, which allow bettors to wager on video replays of historic horse races.

The committee unanimously endorsed two measures.

One would require fingerprinting of people who apply to stage pari-mutuel betting events. The other would set up a state gaming commission to regulate manufacturers and operators of legal gambling contests.

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