Currently Wyoming is one of the few states without a lottery but a Wyoming Senate vote on Friday could bring the state closer to launching a lottery and participating in multistate lotteries like Powerball and Mega Millions. The senate voted 18-10 Friday for the lottery bill. The bill says that revenues must be used for long-term school improvements, which is different from the house version of the bill. The revised bill will be returned to the house for a vote.
The senate vote and approval came after years of attempts to launch a lottery in the state. Most bills only got as far as the house but this year the senate took House Bill 177 and changed the recipients of lottery revenues. It has been estimated that the lottery will bring in $6 million annually. The original house bill designated the money for municipalities, hamlets and counties. The senate adopted an amendment that would deposit the money in the Common School Permanent Land Fund instead. The house will take a look at the senate change and the bill will be referred to a joint House-Senate conference committee to work out the difference or drop the amendment.
Earlier Senate Majority Floor Leader Phil Nicholas had offered the school amendment without success. On Friday Nicholas succeeded. Nicholas said that proponents of the lottery designated local governments as recipients of the money to gain support for the bill. He also noted that local officials did not lobby for the changes. The lottery revenues would amount to very little when divided among towns, hamlets and counties. Nicholas stated “I doubt that the people in Hulett or anywhere else will feel this is enough to even fill one pothole.”
State Representative Dave Zwonitzer, the main sponsor of the measure, said knew there would be disagreements where the money should go and said “I would like to hope that we won’t lose the bill over that, but it is possible.” Senator Ray Peterson said that nearly all his constituents are opposed to the lottery bill. Peterson said that since he has been a lawmaker he has seen all kinds of programs, including entitlement programs, subsidies, food stamps and reduced school lunches to help disadvantaged people.
Peterson stated “I get this image in me of standing in line at the grocery story going through the checkout with my a sack of groceries and someone in front of me pulls out food stamps to pay the bill and then pulls out $10 or $20 to buy lotto tickets. A lot of our citizens are on the dole. And it’s not their money; it’s our money,” he said. “It’s wrong to say, ‘We’ll subsidize you here so you can spend money in other ways.’” This is an argument used by far right wingers and has no basis in fact. Lottery sponsors say the lottery corporation must stand on its own. If the bill passes it will go into effect July 1st.