The lottery seems like a simple thing to play: You go to a local gas station, grocery market, or convenience store and pick up a couple of tickets when the prize gets high. Seems pretty simple and harmless, right? Interestingly, Nevada is one of the few states in the nation that does not have a state lottery. So, in the state where gaming machines are everywhere, it is not actually legal to play the lottery.
The global pandemic has caused Nevada to be running at a financial deficit, according to an article published by PlayNevada.com. Nevada governor Steve Sisolak reported in a recent press conference that the state lost approximately $52 million in gaming tax revenue each month the casinos remained closed since March 2020. This estimated tax revenue loss does not account for other money that typically comes into the city of Las Vegas due to other amenities offered at casinos such as dining, hotel rooms, and shows. Despite the casinos reopening in June, they have been limited to filling capacity at 25% or 50%.
No Lottery in Nevada
Nevada is not the only state that prohibits the lottery. Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah also do not offer any kind of lottery to its residents. Originally, lotteries were expressly outlawed in Nevada through its state constitution. The constitution was ratified in 1864 and section 24 addresses lotteries, specifically, stating as follows:
- Except as otherwise provided in subsection 2, no lottery may be authorized by this State, nor may lottery tickets be sold.
- The State and the political subdivisions thereof shall not operate a lottery. The Legislature may authorize persons engaged in charitable activities or activities not for profit to operate a lottery in the form of a raffle or drawing on their own behalf. All proceeds of the lottery, less expenses directly related to the operation of the lottery, must be used only to benefit charitable or nonprofit activities in this State. A charitable or nonprofit organization shall not employ or otherwise engage any person to organize or operate its lottery for compensation. The Legislature may provide by law for the regulation of such lotteries.
In 1990, however, an exception to the lottery prohibition was created that allows charities in Nevada to offer lotteries. And, while there have been numerous attempts to get lottery approval to be legalized through the voters in a referendum, none have been successful. A 2009 bill that was introduced to allow residents to vote on the lottery issue was killed in the legislature.
Finding a Way
When people want to play to win, however, they find ways. According to the PlayNevada article, many state residents visit retailers outside of Nevada — like in Arizona and California — to get their lottery fix. Not surprisingly, when national lotteries reach seven and eight figure jackpots, many stand in lines for hours (right by state lines) to buy lottery tickets. Whether Nevada will change its state constitution to permit state lottery in light of the negative financial effects of the global pandemic remains to be seen. Meanwhile other states have started legalizing new forms of gambling. Colorado legalized sports betting and New York is contemplating the same in hopes of increasing tax revenues.