Nevada Discusses Adding A Lottery

Written By Marc Meltzer on April 13, 2023
Nevada Discusses Adding A Lottery For More Gambling Options

Nevada is one of five states in the country without a lottery. That could change as the hot topic is in the news once again.

While there’s no lottery available, traditional gambling is ubiquitous in Silver State. Residents and tourists can gamble in Nevada casinos, bars, and even gas stations and drug stores. While video poker, keno, and slot machines are in various locations there are no scratchers, Powerball, or any other lottery games.

Nevada residents frequently head to the California or Arizona borders when multi-state lottery jackpots are large enough to warrant a drive. The time expenditure doesn’t end there. The wait for tickets can be hours long with other Nevada residents looking to win a life-changing prize.

The statewide linked progressive slot machine Megabucks is the closest thing to a lottery game available in Nevada. Coincidentally, as discussion about Nevada legalizing the lottery came up a gambler won the largest Megabucks jackpot for $14 million. This is a far cry from larger lottery jackpots around the country but casino operators will say it’s something.

Legislation submitted to propose legalizing a lottery

The Nevada constitution has banned the lottery for 159 years. This could change with a new Assembly Joint Resolution (AJR).

AJR 5 was submitted by C.H. Miller and Monroe-Monroe in mid-March. The measure “proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution to revise provisions relating to lotteries and the sale of lottery tickets.”

While charitable groups can run lotteries, commercial establishments are not allowed to offer traditional lottery games in Nevada.

If approved, the resolution proposes that revenue from the lottery sales would go toward funding youth mental health services across the state. Even if AJR 5 or a similar resolution receives approval, it could be years before Nevada businesses can sell lottery tickets.

The ALF-CIO and its 12,000 unions with 150,000 members support the measure. Equally important is that the powerful Culinary Workers Union Local 226 which has 800,000 hospitality workers in Nevada also supports AJR 5.

Support from large unions – especially the union that is comprised of casino employees can often go a long way.

There are many arguments for Nevada finally legalizing the lottery. The strongest topic might be the millions of dollars leaving the state for Arizona and California when there are huge nationwide lottery jackpots.

The Primm Lottery Store is one of the most popular destinations for Nevada residents looking to buy lottery tickets. Tax money from this border store goes to California.

Having lottery options for tourists and Nevada residents throughout the state could increase tax revenue and offer gamblers a new option. This is where the opposition stands up.

Nevada casino operators oppose having a lottery

A Nevada lottery is still a long way from reality. Casino operators often butt heads with unions and their members. The lottery situation is no different.

Casino operators always fight to keep their revenue from other businesses. The lottery is no different in their eyes. A dollar spent on lottery tickets won’t be used inside the casino for gambling, dining, etc.

According to the Nevada Independent, the following casino operators showed up at a meeting to discuss the downside of a Nevada lottery:

  • Boyd Gaming
  • Golden Entertainment (The Strat, PT’s Pubs, etc.)
  • South Point Casino
  • Sahara and Grand Sierra (the Meruelo Group)

While Red Rock Resorts (Station Casinos’ parent company) wasn’t present, the business is also against Nevada offering a lottery. The two largest casino corporations on the Vegas Strip, MGM Resorts International, and Caesars, did not weigh in on the matter.

There are numerous arguments for and against a Nevada lottery by various groups. Nevada casino operators say that Nevada wouldn’t see much benefit from lottery revenue as the state is smaller than others.

The casino operators feel comfortable with the Megabucks slot machines at their properties offering a lottery-style jackpot game.

Megabucks and slot machines are Nevada’s lottery

Megabucks slot machines are seen as Nevada’s version of a lottery. The IGT-operated games were introduced in 1986 and have a progressive jackpot that starts at $10 million.

This was the first wide-area progressive slot machine system. Megabucks is traditionally a three-credit reel slot game. Today, there are also video slot versions of Megabucks available on a variety of cabinets with multiple titles.

A Megabucks player at Atlantis Casino in Reno, NV won the biggest slot machine jackpot in Reno history in early April.

The player hit the $14,005,832.09 jackpot on the Mega Vault Megabucks video slot machine.

According to the gambling odds and probability website, Wizard Of Odds, the probability of hitting the Megabucks jackpot is 1 in 49,836,032.

In the early 2000’s Megabucks slot machines held slightly over 11% of casino operators. This means the return to players was about 89%. This hold percentage is higher than any denomination of slot machines in Nevada casinos today. Additionally, Megabucks is highly volatile so the wins and losses can be big.

While the discussion about a Nevada lottery rages, those looking for a big jackpot game can play Megabucks.

Photo by PlayUSA
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Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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