Lottery in Utah: Could it ever happen? Should it?

Mixed opinions on whether a lottery in Utah is a good idea. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — While there's no lottery here in our state, it hasn't stopped many Utahns from heading to Idaho and Wyoming to get their tickets. With some of the profits going to education, many wonder why we wouldn't have the lottery here.

“This is a voluntary tax. People want to pay it. They are waiting in line to pay it,” said Utah State Senator Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake).

But there are mixed opinions on whether Utah should have the lottery. Joseph Rust is an attorney who has studied the lottery extensively.

“The states have no business in this, it gives a sense that it is something people should do," Rust said.

But one thing is clear, it's a money maker for states that do have it.

“Why give the money to Idaho and Wyoming?" Dabakis asked.

Between October 16th through 23rd, sales in our neighboring state Idaho were $6,543,374 on the Mega Millions and $2,590,019 for the Powerball, a total of $9,113,393.

In Malad and Franklin, sales were $1,014,359 on the Mega Millions and $461,836 on the Powerball, a total of $1,476,195. Those are the cities where Utahns go to buy tickets.

“We are missing out,” Dabakis said.

Being last for funding for kids in schools in the nation, Dabakis said this is a "no-brainer" for Utah.

“We need that money for education," he said. "People want to pay it voluntarily with a smile on their face. Let’s go for it.”

In July, Idaho lottery revenue gave public schools and the permanent building fund $53 million, its largest dividend ever.

Rust said it's not always what it seems.

“They find ways of, if they put money into education, then they take money that they would have otherwise budgeted for education and put it elsewhere. It's a false premise, it's a false promise," Rust said.

Rust said it also opens the doors for Native Americans to open casinos.

“If you allow gambling of any kind in your state, then we are entitled to have a casino on our reservation," he said.

Which then can bring in all types of gambling, Rust said.

“It's promoting something that people even admit that's addictive. It harms people.”

It also targets low-income people.

“This is their escape ticket, this is their golden ticket out of poverty. This is their way to retire, because otherwise they don’t have anything," he said.

To get the lottery in Utah, it would have to go through legislature and amend the Utah constitution. Dabakis said it isn’t likely going to happen.

“The legislature, they are pretty thick-skinned and they just don't want to do it. I can't imagine a lottery coming to the State of Utah unless it gets started with the people in an initiative," Dabakis said.

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