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Can a lottery save education in Silver State?
by David Farside
Apr 04, 2012 | 815 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Woodrow
By Woodrow
Welcome to Nevada: the gambling and fun capital of the world. Where you can bet on sporting events, waste your money on slot machines, pretend you’re having fun while losing at the blackjack table, bore yourself to death playing keno and enjoy the atmosphere of a local brothel.

But don’t come to Nevada if you want to buy a lottery ticket. The lottery is illegal in a state that legalized prostitution and offers gamblers everything except a chance to “win your dream” for a $1 wager.

The recent nationwide frenzy to purchase lottery tickets should be a wake-up call to state politicians and local educators to legalize a lottery in Nevada. Currently, 42 states and the District of Columbia are partners in a national lottery that generated $1.46 billion in sales and paid out more than $640 million in the recent cycle of the Mega Millions jackpot. Unfortunately, residents of Nevada had to cross the state line to the great state of California to place a wager.

Our unique objection to a statewide lottery was brought to national attention by ABC News commentator Diane Sawyer. The day before the lottery drawing, ABC pictured the lines of Nevadans who had crossed into California waiting to buy lottery tickets. With a curious smile, Sawyer mentioned, Nevada didn’t have a lottery.

For many years I have been beating the political bushes to legalize a lottery for education, but to no avail. Gaming is opposed to a lottery, saying it will draw players away from slot machines and table games. But that can’t be proven. In states where there is legal Nevada-style gambling, such as New Jersey, there is no evidence to support their concerns.

Gamers claim a lottery would hurt the state economically because the revenue from gaming tax would decrease. That’s not true. The state could receive a sales tax on the ticket, a flat tax on the winnings and a gaming tax on the license to sell the tickets — thereby increasing state revenue, not diminishing it.

Late Republican state Sen. Bill Raggio told me if we had a lottery people would be buying tickets and “no one could afford to buy a tie,” thereby reducing state sales tax. No doubt, he was the spokesman for the gaming industry.

I testified in favor of a state lottery as a way to generate new revenue for the state budget before a task force committee formed by Gov. Kenny Guinn and chaired by Guy Hobbs. The chairman said, “The lottery is not the sole answer to our fiscal crises but it should be considered as part of a long-term solution.” The committee unanimously agreed. The recommendation died somewhere between staff, lobbyist and Republican leadership.

The Washoe County school board is also opposed to a lottery to fund our children’s educational needs. A few years ago, I made a presentation to school board members requesting them to have a public hearing on whether or not the public would support a lottery to fund education. They refused. However, they did try to raise our property taxes.

Placing her personal religious belief above a collective way to fund education, one board member informed me she was opposed to the lottery and all forms of gambling because it was in contrast to what she considered family values. I wonder what she thinks the whore house east of town does to family values?

I appealed to Paul Dugan, then superintendent of the Washoe County School District. I suggested taking a proactive approach towards the lottery: join forces with the teachers union, gain support for a lottery from the 16 other county superintendents, form a coalition, lobby legislators as a strong political jurisdiction, get parents and teachers involved in a statewide public relations campaign and use the political process to break gaming’s squeeze on greedy politicians. Again, to no avail.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has said Nevada’s education leaders, such as his newly appointed state superintendent of education Dr. James Guthrie and Washoe County Superintendent of the Year Heath Morrison, have his “full support and commitment to avoid further cuts to education as we prepare for the legislative session.” He said, “I look forward to working with educators at all levels as we continue to press for the reforms that make a difference in the lives of students.”

We’ll see about that.

Waiting in line to buy a lottery ticket, Elvira Bakken of Las Vegas said, “I think (the lottery) just gives a chance of maybe winning your dream.” But, she won’t win her dream in Nevada unless Sandoval’s “reform” includes a lottery for education.

David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. He can be contacted at
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