Nevada has made significant progress toward establishing a state lottery, as lawmakers in both halves of the legislature have now approved the joint resolution. The legislation, which seeks to remove the prohibition on state lotteries in the constitution, cleared the Senate with a 12-8 vote. However, the state’s constitution means a long road is still ahead.
Unlike a normal bill, AJR5 will not immediately go to the governor for approval. Instead, legislators will need to pass it again during each of the next two legislative sessions. That will pave the way for a referendum in the next general election, asking voters to approve the necessary constitutional amendment. The earliest Nevada residents might vote on the issue would be in 2026. A vote in favor could see Nevada selling its first lottery tickets in 2027.
Assemblyman Cameron “C.H.” Miller, who sponsored the joint resolution, recognizes that the outcome of the next legislative session will be crucial to the lottery’s future success. To move forward, a bill presented in the 2025 session must be identical to the one passed this year. Miller expresses his hope that the current body of lawmakers will be re-elected, as they have demonstrated a willingness to support the implementation of a state lottery.
Nevada is an odd duck when it comes to lotteries. While the state is all but synonymous with gambling, it is one of only five with no lottery. The others – Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah – have few or no options for legal gambling. Conversely, Nevada lacks a lottery primarily because the powerful casino industry is against it. Gambling lobbyists have blocked many proposals for further gambling expansion, including online casinos, because of the disruption they might cause to existing businesses.
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The Casino Industry Does Not Want a Lottery, But Nevadans Might
There have been dozens of attempts in Nevada to legalize the lottery. However, they’ve been unsuccessful primarily due to the opposition of the casino industry. Casino owners have consistently poured large sums into lobbying against the lottery.
After the passage of AJR5 in the state Senate, Nevada Resorts Association president Virginia Valentine voiced concerns about the impact of a lottery on the state’s economy. She stated that lotteries offer limited employment opportunities and do not contribute to economic development or capital investment. Additionally, she says lottery sales would cannibalize retail casino sales, which generate a large part of the state’s tax revenue.
However, Nevada residents might disagree with casino owners. An April poll by the Nevada Independent and Noble Predictive Insights revealed that approximately 71% of respondents support establishing a statewide lottery. Also, from the remaining 29%, only 7% oppose the measure. There’s little difference between Republican and Democrat voters, who support the idea at 76% and 73%, respectively. That suggests that demand for a lottery is high and that it is not a partisan issue. Miller believes constituent interest will influence the decision of future legislature sessions.
Additionally, another fact supports residents’ views on the lottery. Many Nevadans cross the state line to neighboring states like California to purchase lottery tickets. According to the California Lottery, the two largest ticket retailers in the state are located across the Nevada border. That implies that a large percentage of ticket sales are by Nevadans.
A State Lottery Could Fund Mental Health Programs
According to Miller, residents going to other states to purchase tickets highlight the financial drain for Nevada. He stated that it makes no sense for the state to lack a lottery when many residents come from states where lotteries are readily available.
Miller and other proponents of a Nevada lottery want to use the revenue as a reliable funding source for mental health services and additional resources and education for Nevada’s youth. The bill also got backing from Culinary Local 226, a culinary labor union with over 60,000 members. However, the current legislation does not mention where revenue would go or how a lottery would be established.
But according to Miller, that’s because he wants lawmakers and voters to decide whether to change the constitution first. Once that’s done, the ultimate goal is to establish a lottery that specifically funds mental health support.