Las Vegas visitors are often stunned to find that the lottery is strictly prohibited in Nevada. In a state that allows large wagers on what hole a tiny white ball will land in, the lack of a state lottery is perplexing, to say the least.
While protecting the public from shady lottery practices may have been the original intent of the law, today the powerful casino lobby ensures its perpetuation.
Lotteries were originally outlawed in the Nevada state constitution which was ratified in 1864. Section 24 states “No lottery may be authorized by this State, nor may lottery tickets be sold.” One small caveat to the prohibition on lotteries is a 1990 rule change that allows for charitable raffles to take place – A far cry from offering Powerball or MegaMillions.
There have been numerous attempts over the years to amend the state constitution to allow a lottery. After all, other states are doing quite a bit of good with money raised from scratch tickets and jackpot drawings like funding environmental initiatives and/or education. The Nevada Resorts Association, however, representing the gaming industry vehemently opposes such a change. They argue that a lottery would pull revenue away from resorts in Nevada that provide jobs to thousands and pay a substantial chunk of the state’s tax dollars. Essentially, they claim the money to pay for schools and other initiatives are already there. A lottery would only move tax dollars from one source (casinos) to another (the lottery) while creating few, if any, incremental revenue.
Let me (sarcastically) translate the casino/resort stance for you: “We are currently the only show in town if you want to gamble and would prefer minimal competition as we rake profits from games with ever-deteriorating player odds. “
In addition to resort objections, there are also moral concerns raised by others that certainly have merit. For one, a lottery could lead to more problem gambling. Additionally, a lottery is essentially a regressive tax that takes advantage of those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
Even if the appetite existed to explore legalizing the lottery, amending the Nevada state constitution is no easy task. I won’t bore you with the procedural minutia of what needs to occur politically, but even with the necessary policy momentum, the status quo would take years to upend.
Long story short, there isn’t a lottery in Nevada and there won’t be any time soon. For the foreseeable future, Las Vegas residents will be forced to drive 45 minutes down I-15 to the Primm Valley Lotto Store found a mere 50-feet across the border in Nipton, California. With them will go countless dollars that could have been invested in Nevada schools.
Of course, there is always the opportunity to chase the Megabucks slot jackpots that are “lottery-like”, however, those specific slot machines come with a notoriously high house edge.
Whether you make the drive to a neighboring state to purchase lottery tickets or stick to casino gaming, we hope you hit it big. Although the lottery is a long-shot game of chance for players, offering tickets would be a homerun for bolstering state revenues here in Nevada. As in other states, that revenue could be put toward great causes. Hopefully, our politicians decide to stop the flow of tax dollars to neighboring states sooner than later.