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Nevada Assembly passes lottery bill

Apr 17, 2009, 3:06 am

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Senate vote is next step

The Nevada Assembly voted Wednesday for a lottery in the nation's No. 1 gambling state, despite arguments that it would compete with slot machines and other games of chance.

AJR7 is the latest version of a plan that since the 1970s has failed about two dozen times to win legislative approval. The measure advanced on a 31-11 vote and now moves to the Senate.

The plan would have to be approved by lawmakers this year and again in 2011 and then go to a public vote.

"It's time to have the people in Nevada decide whether or not they want a lottery," said Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, the sponsor of the plan.

Opponents included Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, who said, "If there was ever a time for a lottery, I would say this is not the time. Our gaming industries in this state our hemorrhaging."

"They're such a large industry in this state, and I would hate to cannibalize them."

Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, added that casinos have already been hit by the economic downturn and by a state smoking ban that went into effect in 2006.

"A lot of the small tavern owners and those types of operations are really hurting right now in this economy," Cobb said.

But proponents of AJR7 said lawmakers should consider any way to raise revenue.

"I am so frustrated because I hear day after day about our inability to fund our education system," said Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, adding that she hears from many constituents who support the idea to bring money to "woefully underfunded" education.

"I want to give the voters in my district and this state the opportunity to have this choice."

Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas, said that polls show that 70 percent of the public supports the idea of a state lottery.

Lotteries are operated in all but eight states now, and experts on such games estimate that Americans spent $57 billion on lottery tickets in 2006 alone-with no more than 2 percent of any of the ticket sales going into any state's coffers. The rest of the money went to pay for prizes and other expenses.

"We've heard over and over ... that the most lucrative place that California sells their lottery tickets is on the Nevada border," said Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas.

"I have a lottery ticket in my pocket," she said, adding, "Wish me luck tonight."

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