A Nevada lawmaker said Thursday he wants to amend the state’s constitution to legalize a state lottery with proceeds funding youth mental health services.
Assistant Majority Assembly Floor Leader Cameron “CH” Miller, D-North Las Vegas, announced his proposal in a release. He said it was a “common-sense solution” to allocate the money for such a purpose.
Mental Health America’s Ranking the States 2022 showed Nevada came in last among all states and the District of Columbia for both youth mental health and overall mental health.
The study, which looked at seven youth statistics and 15 overall data points, noted states that ranked in the bottom quarter “have higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care.”
Miller added that he faced mental health issues as a child.
“The last few years have shown us how critical mental health care is and that our current infrastructure is woefully inadequate,” Miller said.
While Nevada is known as a gaming haven, it’s also one of five states without a state-run lottery. The others are Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah.
Nevada’s constitution, ratified in 1864, specifically banned lotteries, although an amendment passed by voters in 1990 allows them for charitable gaming purposes.
Culinary Union Backs Nevada Lottery Amendment
Shortly after Miller released his proposal, it picked up an endorsement from the Culinary Union, a labor group representing casino workers across Nevada and an influential political organization in the state.
In a statement, union Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge said a lottery would allow Nevada to have a dedicated long-term funding source for an essential program and do it without the need for raising taxes.
“Enacting a State Lottery is a dependable source of revenue for nearly every state in the country and in a state where gaming is the cornerstone of the economy, there is no public policy rationale to continue the ban on a State Lottery that is present in the Nevada Constitution,” he said.
Pappageorge added the union would launch a voter awareness campaign to promote the amendment.
Resorts Association Wants ‘In The Discussion’
Miller’s proposal is not the first time a state lottery has been brought up in Nevada.
Those attempts have typically been met with resistance from Nevada’s gaming industry. Casinos aren’t just in major traffic areas, but all across the state. In addition, gaming machines can also be found in gas stations and grocery stores, the types of retailers that sell lottery tickets in other states.
In a statement to Casino.org, the Nevada Resort Association, which represents casino interests in the state, said the group has not had a chance to review Miller’s bill but agreed that youth mental health issues need to be addressed in the state.
“Any effort to amend Nevada’s constitution should be well understood and carefully vetted for impacts to the state and its residents,” the association said. “As Nevada’s economic engine, supporting more than 385,000 jobs, contributing 36 percent of the state’s general fund and generating a total annual economic impact of more than $90 billion, we look forward to being included in the discussion.”
Lotteries vs. Casinos
Nevada’s lottery ban typically comes up each time there’s a major jackpot for either the Powerball or Mega Millions drawings. Nevadans wanting their chance for a big payday have to drive to California or Arizona to get their tickets for the once-in-a-lifetime prize.
Pappageorge said in his statement it would be “difficult to estimate” what Nevada leaves on the table without a lottery but said it’s “almost certainly more than $10 million.” He based that off data from one California Lottery retailer just across the state line from Primm.
Nevada is the regulatory gold standard of gaming, and it knows how to properly administer gaming in a way that does not negatively impact citizens,” Pappageorge said. “Sustainable investment in youth mental health is good public policy that is long overdue, and implementing a state lottery would allow Nevada to address an ongoing and urgent public health crisis.”
One key difference between lotteries and casinos is the return-to-player ratio.
According to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, roughly 65 cents for each $1 played goes back to players.
In its report for December 2022, the Nevada Gaming Control Board noted the state’s nonrestricted locations reported a 13.8% win rate for table games and a 7.2% win rate for slots.
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