Assemblyman Harvey Munford wants to bring the lottery to Nevada. Yes, that’s right: the gambling capital of the world does not have a lottery, and that’s in large part to the gambling industry of the gambling capital of the world, which doesn’t want the competition. It’s even written into the state’s constitution: no lotteries! Almost 30 legislative attempts to establish a lottery in Nevada since 1975 have failed.
However, Munford was undeterred as he addressed the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee this week, arguing that voters, rather than the casino industry, should be given the chance to decide the issue.
“This is a loss of revenue for our state that could be helping the education of our younger constituents,” he said. “It would do so without increasing taxes.”
Members of the Las Vegas press have noted, wryly, that Munford has about as much chance of making this happen as he has of… well… winning the lottery.
Since, as we have already established, Nevada does not have a lottery, that would put his estimated chances at zilch, which, in fairness, is only slightly worse than those living across the border in California or Arizona.
Nevada’s prohibition of lotteries was established at statehood in 1864 and has remained sacrosanct since, although it was amended by voters in 1990 to allow charity lotteries. Munford’s Assembly Joint Resolution No. 6 wants to scrap the ban and embrace a state lottery as a means of supporting public education and promoting the “health and welfare of senior citizens.”
“I know it’s been introduced several sessions since I’ve been up here, and every time it’s always died. It’s never been able to go forward,” said Munford, who is due to step down from office at the end of the current legislative session. “I just said, ‘I’m gonna give it another shot.”
However, any legislation that proposes amending the constitution is going to need a huge amount of support. The bill would have to pass not only this session of the Legislature but the 2017 session also, before going to public vote in 2018.
And there is opposition not just from the casino industry but also from conservative associations. Conservative activist Janine Hansen is aghast at the effect that a lottery might have in a state that has one slot machine for every ten residents. “It’s devastating for a family to have to deal with a person who has a gambling addiction,” she said. “It destroys the family entirely.”
Should the issue ever get to public vote, however, it would probably pass. A 2009 survey showed about 70 percent of voters were in favor. A lottery would bring $48 million a year in profit for the state, research suggests.