It has always been a bit of a contradiction for me that in Las Vegas you can pretty much bet on anything but you can’t buy a lottery ticket. Most forms of gambling were legalized in Nevada in 1931 but lotteries have been outlawed in the state since its constitution was drawn up in 1864. What’s the difference? How did Nevada become a gambling haven while refusing to allow a lottery?
It’s not that difficult to work out. The casino industry has long opposed a lottery in Nevada for obvious reasons. They think that the more money people are spending on lotteries, the less they have to spend in casinos. That’s probably right and the casinos do have some mighty political clout just like the oil companies in Texas, indeed, the casinos’ position on a state lottery has been so unwavering that whenever a lottery proposal is advanced it is also rejected by the state legislature. Dozens of such proposals have been rejected over the last couple of decades, despite the additional tax dollars a lottery would provide.
Five other states have also outlawed lotteries: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi and Utah. Wyoming is the most recent state to implement a lottery, having legalized it in March 2013.
So, what can you do in Las Vegas if you want to play a lottery? When I was telling you about Slots I mentioned Megabucks. It’s a state wide progressive slot machine system where the jackpot starts at $10 million. There are others but Megabucks was the first system to link games between Nevada casinos, and is responsible for the state’s largest-ever slot jackpot: a $39.7 million win at Excalibur in 2003.
You may not be surprised however to learn that many Nevada and Las Vegas residents weren’t content to play the slots – they wanted the real thing. Many would take advantage of the city’s South West Nevada location and its proximity to other states to travel ‘abroad’ and to play the lotteries in states where it is legal to do so. Arizona being the closest, the majority of such traffic was sixty miles or so down US 93 and over the Hoover Dam (now over the new road bridge). One favourite outlet to buy tickets was Rosie’s Den in White Hills, Arizona and the proprietors there caused something of a storm recently when they closed their three lottery terminals. They couldn’t make it pay they said.
There are other outlets where you can buy tickets nearby, at least three the proprietors say, so Vegas residents will still be nipping across the border to get their fix but many used to combine their purchase with a hearty Rosies’ breakfast or diner lunch and they’re sad they can no longer do so.
If you’re visiting Vegas and want to play the lottery don’t bother as you have to be a resident to collect your winnings and there can’t be many worse things, illness aside, than winning a jackpot and being unable to claim it. I ‘play’ the big lotteries in the USA online via Lottoland. You don’t really play the lottery at all but that company acts as a bookmaker and lays you a bet on identical terms to the lottery paying the same dividends if you are lucky enough to win. I’m still waiting…..