Nevada Bans Lottery Ticket Sales, Residents Still Dream of Winning

Nevadians had no choice but to travel out of state this week to try their luck at the historic $1.337 billion Mega Millions lottery jackpot. The state continues to forbid the sale of lottery tickets.

Speedway gas station and convenience store in Des Plaines, Ill.
Speedway gas station and convenience store in Des Plaines, Ill.
Speedway gas station and convenience store in Des Plaines, Ill., pictured above. It is where this week’s historic winning lottery ticket was sold. (Image: Associated Press)

That may sound strange, given that Nevada is a gambling mecca with major gaming destinations like Las Vegas and Reno.

But lotteries were forbidden in the Nevada state constitution which was ratified in 1864. “No lottery may be authorized by this State, nor may lottery tickets be sold,” the document clearly states.

Since then, the state has allowed only charitable organizations to operate limited lotteries. Nevada is not alone. Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Mississippi, Utah and Wyoming also do not have state lotteries.

So, in the past several days, many Nevada residents drove to the Lotto Store at Primm, officially located in Nipton, Calif., to get their tickets. It is about 44 miles from Las Vegas.

Other lottery ticket locations are found in border towns in Arizona. They too had eager customers from Nevada this week.

Some of those who drove to California pointed out the high price of gasoline when driving to out-of-state locations.

“It stinks that Nevada makes us drive all the way to California for lottery tickets since gas costs so much,” Ricardo Pasadas told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He has driven to Primm three times in the last two decades to buy lottery tickets.

But neither California nor Arizona lottery customers had much luck this time. Friday’s winning ticket in the Mega Millions was sold in Illinois.

The ticket was sold at the Speedway fuel and convenience store on East Touhy Avenue in Des Plaines, Ill., a Chicago suburb, Reuters reported.

Odds of Winning

But why would Nevada residents even want to try their luck on the multi-state lottery? The chance of winning was estimated at one in 302.5 million. Much better odds can be found at one of Nevada’s casinos.

Alan M. Feldman, a Distinguished Fellow, Responsible Gaming, at UNLV, and former MGM Resorts International executive, explained, “Clearly, people pay no attention to the odds of actually winning.” He, too, sometimes purchases lottery tickets when in states that sell them.

It’s all about the fantasy of ‘what if I won?,’” Feldman told “People regularly go through the dream of planning for an influx of money. As the prize goes up, so do sales.”

Lottery executives have revealed to Feldman “these crazy, large jackpots are good and bad.”  Good because sales invariably go up. Bad because they set a new high bar and people get less interested in smaller jackpots of only “tens of millions of dollars.”

Either Buy a Lottery Ticket or Not

In the 1990s, a Federal Gambling Commission toured the US and held meetings with various experts testifying on gambling.

“At the meeting here in Las Vegas, one panel featured a mathematician who was there to explain the odds of winning on a variety of games, including lottery,” Feldman recalled.

Of lottery, he said, that while some people understand the odds to be ridiculously stacked against them, he didn’t think it unreasonable to believe, as far many more people do, that the odds are fifty-fifty. Either you play, and might win, or you don’t and have no chance at winning.”

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