Rep. Birkeland Says Utah’s Chances of Establishing a Lottery Are Good, But Not Until 2028

Utah’s residents may have to wait a while longer to get a state lottery, but Rep. Kera Birkeland says she thinks it will happen by 2028. Birkeland sponsored a lottery bill this year, but the effort hit a dead end in the Senate.

Birkeland told PlayiLottery she’ll resume her effort next year, assuming she wins reelection in November. Unfortunately, she says the 2025 bill will only serve to keep the discussion going.

Senate President Stuart Adams is vehemently opposed to a lottery. Therefore, any subsequent effort will likely face the same fate as the 2024 bill unless he leaves office or has a change of heart. Birkeland sees Adams as the biggest hurdle to getting a state lottery proposal on the ballot.

Adams’ term expires on Jan. 1, 2027. His departure could open the door for a lottery bill to pass if Birkeland lays the groundwork in the meantime.

Because of Utah’s constitutional prohibition on gambling, any expansion bill needs a two-thirds supermajority in each chamber. That’s a high bar to clear in the Senate when its President is a vocal opponent of the legislation.

If a lottery bill eventually passes in the legislature, it won’t become law immediately. The need for a constitutional amendment would mean a referendum would follow.

Birkland estimates Utahns spend as much as $200 million annually on lottery tickets in neighboring states. A 2012 study found that Utahns were responsible for one in five lottery ticket purchases in nearby Idaho. Birkland feels that money should stay in Utah to help mitigate taxes. Rising property taxes, in particular, are a hot-button topic in the state at the moment.

The representative says her focus is on older residents living on a fixed income. She added that many of her constituents are struggling to keep up with their increasing tax bills.

All Holdout States Considered a Lottery in 2024

The now-frequent billion-dollar jackpots and consequent increased interest in the lottery have seemingly caught the attention of lawmakers whose states have held out on creating one. Only five such states remain: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah.

All five of those states had lottery bills on the table this year. Some still have a chance of passing one.

Utah and Hawaii are the only two states without any gambling whatsoever. While a bill to legalize a lottery in Hawaii hasn’t been introduced since 2021, some lawmakers have recently tested the waters with other gambling expansion proposals. Any success or momentum could lead to another lottery bill, as lawmakers are usually more open to a lottery than online casinos or sports betting.

Legalization in Nevada is possible but will take years due to the state’s constitution. Last year, the state legislature passed a lottery bill, but the constitution requires the legislation to pass again in the next two sessions. Residents will then be able to vote on the matter during the 2026 general elections if that happens. With their approval, Nevada could be selling lottery tickets by 2027 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, Alabama could launch a state lottery as early as next year. However, the House and Senate must agree on what to send to voters. While both chambers feel that a lottery should go to voters this year, they’ve had trouble agreeing on what other forms of gambling should accompany it. A compromise is now close, but the Senate is still one vote short, so that effort will come down to the wire.

The last representative of the lottery holdouts, Alaska, has an active bill but few prospects of seeing it advance. The legislation was introduced last year but remains active because of the state’s biannual legislative cycle. However, with no movement in 2023, it’s unlikely to spring to life suddenly in 2024, especially with only two weeks remaining in the session.

About the Author

Chav Vasilev

Chav Vasilev

After years of managing fast-casual restaurants, Chav turned his passion for sports and occasional slot wins into a career as an iGaming writer. Sharing his time between Europe and the US, he has been exposed to betting and gambling for years and has closely followed the growth in the US. Chav is a proponent of playing responsibly and playing only at legal online sites. When not writing, you will find him watching and betting on sports, especially soccer, or trying to land the next big bonus on a slot.
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