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Gaming Guru

Cy Ryan
 

Gaming Chairman: Nevada Powerball Illegal

14 February 2005

CARSON CITY, Nevada -- The chairman of the state Gaming Control board said today he thinks the Nevada Constitutional ban against a lottery prohibits Nevada from joining with other states to participate in a Powerball lottery. But Chairman Dennis Neilander agreed to research the issue to determine if backers of a lottery may get around the constitutional ban by joining with other states.

Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, asked Neilander to look into the issue whether the Powerball concept could be used in Nevada without amending the Constitution.

Democrats in the Legislature are pushing a lottery to help fund education and social programs.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said there was an "obvious concern" whether a Nevada lottery could compete against the big prizes offered in California.

"It would not be very attractive," Raggio said. He added a lottery proposal would have to be approved by two sessions of the Legislature and then ratified by the voters.

He said people in Reno can drive 10 miles to just over the state line and buy a California ticket now.

A spokeswoman for Station Casinos Inc., which has opposed developing a lottery in Nevada, applauded Neilander for researching the issue, but said even a proposal for a multistate lottery creates many policy questions for lawmakers.

Lesley Pittman said she questions whether partnering with other states would provide any benefits for Nevadans.

Station Casinos, in the past, has opposed a lottery, saying it is wrong for government to compete with the state's largest industry, even if it would benefit education.

"It would be like the state of Washington going into the airplane manufacturing business or the state of Michigan manufacturing cars," Pittman said today after learning about Neilander's testimony.

Besides,the governor has proposed $500 million in new money for education "that could be put in the classroom immediately," she said.

Neilander said many games in Nevada have the traits of a lottery but they are defined as gambling games. "If it is a lottery, it cannot be offered by a casino," because of the Constitutional ban, he said.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, said he had some reservations about a lottery. "You can't have a lottery without lying," he said, referring to potential advertisement urging the public to play. He said it would offer the worst odds of winning.

Neilander said he did not think it would be a good idea to have the Gaming Control Board operate a lottery, but that it could be done by having a separate division of the board.

He said the Control Board is privy to information from the casinos and its duty is enforcing the state's gaming laws. He said other states have contracted out their lottery operations and advertising.

The discussion was before the Senate Finance Committee that considered the board's budget.

Neilander told the committee that the board will begin charging $750 for junketeers -- independent agents who bring gamblers to casinos -- who register with the state to bring in groups to gamble in Nevada. Presently there is no fee charged.

But he said there has been a "huge increase" in the number of independent agents because of less travel restrictions in Asia.

This fee would enable the board to hire two investigators to do preliminary background checks. The board processes about 150 of these junketeer registrations a year.

The board is also adding two investigators to take care of an expected influx of applications from persons who want to work in the casinos. Neilander said the industry is expanding in Southern Nevada and he expects 36,000 work card applications in each of the next two years.

The state has taken over the issuance of work cards from the counties. An applicant pays $75 of which $30 is retained by the board and $45 goes to the FBI or Nevada Criminal Investigations Division to check the fingerprints.