According to education officials, the Nevada school system did not get the same percentage of money from the state budget as in previous years. In addition, the governor’s recent 4.5-percent reduction in the current budget further impacted the school system in negative fashion.
To combat the shortfall, the teacher’s union is proposing to introduce a ballot question to raise the state’s gaming tax to help the underfunded education system.
In the past there have been numerous attempts to create a state lottery, the primary function of which would be to fund education. The most notable have come from former lieutenant governor candidate Bill Boyd in 1982 and by local activist David Farside a few years ago. Both attempts were shot down by legislators, probably at the behest of the gaming industry.
The interesting thing about both the Boyd and Farside approaches was that they offered gaming the option of having lottery ticket sales in only the larger hotel-casinos. In addition to creating foot traffic through those establishments the house would “rake off” a 10-percent commission on the lottery ticket sales — a nice “hold” that would come at no risk to the house and be accomplished in the rather small space of a single ticket window at the cashier’s cage. In addition, when someone hit the “big win,” the major casinos could rotate the award ceremony, which would be done up in true Nevada style and garner even further publicity for the Silver State.
Detractors in Carson City said that a lottery would not be good for Nevada since it would siphon off money that might be spent at other games. To counter that, Farside pointed to Atlantic City, where the New Jersey lottery has had little or no effect on the casino profits.
Another argument that lottery naysayers used was that Nevada’s population was too small to have a big enough lottery jackpot to interest ticket buyers. This was countered by the fact that nearly 40 million tourists visit Nevada annually and many of them would also be lottery players.
A further detraction to the lottery was that it would be economically harmful to our citizenry since lottery players would be spending the “grocery money” to buy Nevada tickets. Strangely enough, for years two of the biggest sellers of California Lottery tickets have been in northern Nevada at Hallelujah Junction and the Gold Ranch in Verdi. Quite possibly the ticket buyers at those two locations aren’t all driving over here from California to buy their chance at a fortune. In effect, all those Nevadans who have been, and would be, playing the lottery might rather see their dollars going into their home state than into the coffers of the Golden State.
Another factor in favor of a lottery for Nevada is that there is an agency already in place, the Gaming Control Board, that could be charged with its operation, thus eliminating the need for the creation of another expensive state agency.
Perhaps the gamers should consider which poison is more palatable — an increase in taxes or a lottery from which they can draw a healthy commission.
Just tune into the Turner Classic Movie channel on Charter cable if you want to check out some celebrities that used to frequent this area.
The latest example was last weekend when the black and white sci-fi thriller “Them” aired on TCM. The early 1950s movie starred James Arness and Edmund Gwenn. For Arness it was before his long-running “Gunsmoke” series that eventually earned him the Reno Silver Spurs award. It was when he arrived in Reno to receive his “Spurs” that we got to know the towering actor up close and personal. Like most big men, Arness was a quiet, soft-spoken, easy-going individual. One of his main claims to fame was the fact that he was several inches taller than megastar John Wayne, with whom he appeared in several flicks. In “Them,” he played a courageous hero battling giant mutated ants that had been created by the nation’s first atomic blast at Alamagordo.
In “Them,” the diminutive Edmund Gwenn looked even smaller in the scenes where he stood toe-to-toe with Arness. Gwenn played a scientist who was an expert on the life and behavior of ants. A half dozen years earlier he had been in Reno on the university campus where he co-starred in “Apartment for Peggy” with William Holden and Jeanne Crain. At that time he was a charming raconteur with a great sense of humor as he regaled us with show business stories between takes.
Harry Spencer is a Reno freelance writer.