Question: “Should the state of Nevada legalize a lottery?”
Yes: We Can Provide Funding for Education
By: Richard Perkins Speaker, Nevada State Assembly
Every two years the state Legislature gathers in Carson City. Based on the estimates of budget experts, we work together for months to build a budget for the entire state. Sometimes those experts get it right… but sometimes they don’t. And when they don’t, critical state programs, such as education, do not get all the funding they need. Now, we have an option before us that will help to alleviate part of this problem. By creating a state lottery dedicated solely to education, for textbooks and reducing class size, we will be able to create some stability for our children.
Nevada is experiencing a crisis in its classrooms. They are overcrowded, there aren’t enough textbooks for every student, and our state continually ranks at or near the bottom when it comes to education. It is time we had a dedicated stable funding source to address some of our education problems. It is time these funding sources not be changed every two years at the whims of politicians. It is time for a state lottery directed to provide textbooks and smaller class sizes for our children.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 23 percent of Nevada fourth-graders and 20 percent of eighth-graders were proficient or better in math; 20 percent of fourth-graders and 21 percent of eighth-graders were proficient or better in reading. For any parents who want their children to succeed in life, this is not acceptable.
The reason our students aren’t doing as well as they could be is two-fold. First, teachers are stretched too thin in overcrowded classrooms where valuable one-on-one time with students is at a minimum. Second, there aren’t enough textbooks in our schools for students to take home where their parents can help them learn. When you deny our children textbooks and time with teachers, you deny them a quality education.
Nevadans are tired of being at the bottom of the list when it comes to education. A state lottery will give us the chance to break through the barrier and improve education by creating a consistent funding source without increasing taxes.
As a community, we all have a stake in our children’s future. The better their education, the more productive they will be in our society. With the Nevada state lottery directing dollars to the classroom, we all come out winners.
No: The Lottery is Wrong for Many Reasons
Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer, Station Casinos, Inc.
As members of the 2005 Legislature consider amending the Nevada Constitution to permit a lottery, it is important to revisit some of the many reasons why a prohibition was written into our state’s constitution and why it remains in effect 140 years later. Should the state compete with its largest employer and private industry? A lottery in Nevada would be similar to the state of Michigan entering the automobile manufacturing business. Although a lottery generally starts with scratch-off tickets, technology is constantly changing, and today the lottery industry offers video lottery terminals that permit rapid-fire play and are virtually electronic facsimiles of slot machines. That means today’s lottery game is no different from what a gambler might find in a casino.
Is a lottery inconsistent with long-standing state policy?In order to receive a gaming license in Nevada, a potential licensee must provide a benefit to the community by creating new jobs, investing significant capital and expanding property tax revenue. By allowing a lottery, the state would be doing the opposite – taking gambling dollars from an activity that creates jobs, makes significant investment in bricks-and-mortar and pays 6.75 percent of its gross revenue in taxes –directing those dollars to a gambling activity that does none of these things.
How can state government ensure its pursuit of revenues does not conflict with its responsibility to protect the public? Research shows that, unlike the average casino customer, the majority of people who play lotteries have lower education and household income levels than the national average. If that is the case, then those who live in less affluent areas of our community and are more likely to play the lottery will actually subsidize the education of the children of our wealthier residents.
Will a lottery raise a substantial amount of revenue? While we applaud the desire of state legislators to provide more money for public schools, we question a lottery’s ability to have a significant impact. Using the most generous estimates, a lottery might raise a maximum of $30 million to $50 million per year (not including the reduction in existing gaming tax revenue) and wouldn’t make it into the classroom until at least 2010. These costs also don’t reflect the costs associated with establishing a new bureaucracy to administer the lottery.
For these reasons and more, we believe it would be irresponsible and poor public policy to amend Nevada’s constitution to permit a lottery.