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Senators decline state lottery vote

CARSON CITY — The proposed constitutional amendment to legalize a state lottery apparently will die in the Senate Judiciary Committee without a whimper.

Judiciary Chairman Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, asked members Wednesday if they wanted to vote on the lottery bill, Assembly Joint Resolution 5.

No one on the committee made a motion on the bill. Then Amodei noted he has asked members in three different meetings whether they wanted to vote on the lottery bill and no one has asked for a vote.

“It would be my intent not to put it back on a work session unless a majority of the committee requests it,” Amodei then said.

That appears unlikely since the same committee two years ago killed a similar lottery proposal on a 5-2 vote. The membership on the committee has not changed.

In hearings two years ago, Judiciary Committee members said they did not want to legalize a lottery because it would compete with the gaming industry for gaming dollars.

The apparent demise of AJR5 marks the 25th time since 1975 that the Legislature has rejected moves to legalize a state lottery.

While Nevada legalized casino gaming in 1931, state lotteries have been prohibited by a clause in the state constitution since 1864.

To amend the constitution, the Legislature would have to pass the lottery resolution this year and again in 2009. Voters then would have to approve it during the election in 2010.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said Nevadans want a lottery and he is disappointed by the lack of action in the Senate.

“Sometimes we send bills over there that we know have no chance of passing,” Oceguera added.

The Assembly approved the lottery resolution 29-13 on March 20. All 27 Democrats and two Republicans supported the plan. The other 13 Republican opposed it.

Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas, introduced the bill. He designed the resolution so any profits from a lottery would be used to purchase school textbooks and supplies.

During the debate on the bill, Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, cited a poll that found 73 percent of Nevadans favor a state lottery. He estimated it would bring in $50 million to $200 million a year in profits.

On the other hand, Boyd Gaming and Station Casinos unveiled a study in March that found a Nevada lottery would create 316 new jobs in the state, while leading to the elimination of 595 jobs in the hospitality industry, for a net loss of 279 jobs.

Jeremy Aguero, the Applied Analysis researcher who authored the lottery study, also said at the time that people with the lowest incomes are more likely to play lotteries.

“Lotteries have the worst odds of legalized gaming known to man,” said Aguero, adding that the chances of winning a lottery are about the same as being killed in a car accident.

He found that if someone purchased 50 California Super Lotto tickets each week, that person would win the jackpot once every 5,000 years.

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