Nevada lawmakers last week took a historic step towards giving voters the opportunity to reconsider the state's longstanding constitutional ban on lotteries. With a 12-8 vote in the Senate, AJR5, a proposed constitutional amendment to lift the prohibition on state lotteries, will get a required second run in the 2025 legislative session, paving the way for inclusion on the 2026 general election ballot if passed again.
The possibility of repealing the 159-year-old lottery ban has garnered attention and mixed opinions, particularly within Nevada's gaming industry. Brendan Bussmann, a gaming industry advisor, said he believes that voters would likely support the introduction of a statewide lottery in Nevada, a scenario the Silver State's gambling sector fears. Currently, Nevada is one of only five states without a lottery.
Bussmann, managing partner of B2 Global based in Las Vegas, told The Nevada Independent: "There is clear popularity for the measure in a gaming state and one that will be hard to starve off by the industry should it make it through the Legislature in 2025."
Assemblyman C.H. Miller, the sponsor of the constitutional amendment, acknowledged that support received thus far and emphasized the need to strategize differently in the next legislative session.
Miller hopes to establish a clearer framework for a potential lottery, with the generated revenue directed toward youth mental health programs. However, he noted that the current consideration is solely focused on whether the people of Nevada want to amend their constitution to allow for a lottery, and not what it will potentially look like.
The Assemblyman highlighted the financial loss experienced by the state as residents cross state lines to participate in lotteries, stating: "We know we're losing money as a state to other states, so why not recapture that money and target it toward something that is going to benefit our future?"
Previous attempts to introduce a lottery in Nevada date back to 1887, with more than two dozen legislative efforts documented since, the latest taking place in 2011 and 2015. However, none of these attempts were successful in overturning the state's long-standing lottery ban.
The recent progress can be attributed to a change in approach by legislators, according to Miller. He also acknowledged the support from labor groups, including Culinary Workers Local 226, which advocated for the bill and the allocation of revenue towards youth mental health programs.
Predictably, the casino industry has voiced opposition to the lottery bill. Lobbyist Nick Vassiliadis, representing the Nevada Resort Association, pointed out the absence of mental health references in the bill during his testimony.
Vassiliadis emphasized that the gaming industry will need to provide a more comprehensive analysis of the potential policy implications if a state lottery were to be legalized. While acknowledging the widespread popularity of lotteries, Vassiliadis highlighted that the sale of lottery tickets differs significantly from operating a casino resort, as reported by The Nevada Independent.
He raised concerns about the lack of job creation and the departure from established gaming policy, noting: "There used to be an understanding that some sort of economic investment was part of the responsibility that a gaming establishment would have to receive a gaming license."
The debate surrounding the potential repeal of Nevada's lottery ban is expected to continue, with stakeholders and legislators engaging in discussions to assess the impact and implications of legalizing a state lottery.