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Wyoming lottery backers try again

Jan 16, 2009, 9:09 am

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Wyoming Lottery

Legislators will have another chance to pass a state lottery bill in the weeks ahead. The new proposal is modeled after the 15-year-old Georgia lottery.

The 2009 version is different in many respects from previous bills that failed to get through the Wyoming Legislature.

For one thing, the proposal would direct $11 million or $12 million to the Hathaway Scholarship Permanent Trust. It also would set up a separate entity, a business corporation, to run the lottery and would not require any state dollars.

The main sponsors of "The Wyoming Lottery for Education Act," Reps. George Bagby, D-Rawlins, and Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, were signing up more sponsors Monday, the day before today's noon opening of the 60th Wyoming Legislature.

A four-member board appointed by the governor would oversee the corporation.

The bill authorizes Wyoming-specific lottery games and the state's involvement in any multi-state lotteries.

The bill differs from the Georgia program in that it also allows for visual lottery terminals at Wyoming Downs, the horse track in Evanston.

The horse racetrack would put up a $1 million application fee to help the corporation get started.

"That exact form of video lottery can only be at the racetrack," Wallis said.

The restriction should reassure people who are "concerned about rampant gambling across the state," Wallis said.

Two years ago horse racing officials opposed the lottery bill.

Wallis and Bagby noted that legislative leaders say the Hathaway scholarship fund is running short this year and education officials may have to dip into reserves.

"Every time you buy a lottery ticket, you're not only taking a chance of winning yourself, you're also helping the Hathaway scholarship," Bagby said.

Previous bills failed primarily because of the cost to the state, coupled with estimated low revenues from a lottery because of Wyoming's small population.

"This is what I love about this bill," Wallis said. "Zero state appropriation. Doesn't raise taxes. We're not taking money away from anybody to do this."

Gov. Dave Freudenthal, during the Democratic legislators' caucus Sunday, reiterated his opposition to gambling bills.

He said if the Legislature passes a "clean Powerball bill," however, he would sign it into law.

Wallis pointed out the lottery allows the state to participate in the national Powerball, or multi-state lottery.

The bill requires that at least 45 percent of the income go to prizes, while the rest would go to the Hathaway fund.

Currently Wyoming residents must leave the state to buy lottery tickets.

Under the bill, retailers could sign a contract with the corporation to participate. If they passed a background check, the corporation would set up a video terminal in its store or facility. The merchant would then get to keep a minimum 5 percent of the proceeds.

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