On the EDge: Why won’t Utah lawmakers gamble on lottery?

OPINION – The rules are this: If you want to win, you’ve got to play.

For most people, at least in 42 states, that’s not a problem.

But, if you live in Utah and you’re feeling lucky and think you can overcome the 1-in-175 million odds to win a Powerball jackpot, you’d better think road trip because the game simply isn’t played here and with the current closed-mindedness that makes the Beehive State Legislature behave the way it does, a Utah lottery has but a snowball’s chance in hell of ever coming to fruition.

I remember attending a town meeting a few years back when Utah lawmakers gathered in St. George to discuss pressing issues. As usual, the budget was a huge concern, particularly when it came to funding for education. With furrowed brows and saddened faces, the gathered lawmakers, who were participating in a Paul Revere run the length of the state to meet with taxpayers, talked about the tough decisions as they tried to figure which programs to cut, which programs to eliminate, and which would survive, even meagerly.

I asked why they didn’t consider instituting a Utah lottery as a way to feed the kitty.

In a millisecond, faces turned bright red and flames shot out of the ears of the lawmakers who went nearly apoplectic in dismissing the notion as if it came from Satan himself. The spouting and spewing from the red-faced legislators bordered on comical as they raced through a litany of the evils of a lottery, the immorality of a lottery, the unsavory aspects of a lottery, as if it was being run like a neighborhood numbers racket in a backstreet bar on the south side of Chicago.

It got to the point where the legislators finally said that a lottery just didn’t fit with the morals of the people who reside in the state of Utah. I asked if any one of them ever drove past the Beaver Dam Station and Bar, run by my dear friend Bonnie, and noticed all of the Utah license plates on the cars parked out front when the Powerball or Arizona Lottery jackpot was surging. Most of them reacted as if they never heard of Beaver Dam while the others growled and snarled.

The fact is, however, the store and bar sell an average of $4,500 in lottery tickets daily. Last Saturday? They sold $26,000 worth of lottery tickets.

Then I asked if they were aware that the California Lottery puts about $1 billion into the education budget annually and has done so since it was started in 1984, which provoked even more growling and snarling and a comparison, I’m pretty sure, to the school taking money from a Colombian drug lord. Or, at least something like that, which is why Utah, according to the Casinocity.com website, is one of only four states in the Union — Hawaii, Vermont, and Tennessee are the others — that offer no form of gambling, whether it be a lottery system, horse racing, casinos, or dog races. I guess what happens in the grandstands at the Beaver County horse races doesn’t count.

It all comes to mind as I look through the news reports that the one and only winning ticket to last weekend’s Powerball drawing was purchased at a liquor store in Passaic, New Jersey.

The ticket is worth $338 million; however, if the owner of that ticket cashes it in and elects to take his winnings in one lump sum, the payout, after taxes, would be $152 million. Even I could get by on that, and I’ll bet you could, too.

I mean, seriously, haven’t we all daydreamed about what we would do with such a windfall; what we would do for our family, what we would indulge ourselves with, which charitable organizations we would favor. You could do a lot of good with that kind of money, with plenty remaining to live a very comfortable lifestyle.

Go ahead, take a moment and think what you would do if you came into that kind of money.

Nice, eh?

I’m sure our school administrators also daydream about what life would be like if there was enough money in the Utah treasury to boost funding from the bottom of the pile to a more reasonable level, which our kids deserve.

But, until our Legislature frees itself from the shackles that influence its decisions — from issues as ridiculously embarrassing as the Zion Curtain drinking law to, well, instituting a lottery — all we can do is daydream.

Or, make a run for the border when the jackpot is too enticing to ignore.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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  • Tyler March 27, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Cuz Utah is run by Utards and home to cult-brainwashed sheep.

  • My Evil Twin March 27, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Ed, Ed, you lived here long enough to know about the Utah double standard. I agree that you and I will never live long enough to see Utah get on the lottery band wagon. Shoot, our GRAND KIDS probably won’t live that long. And to all you good folks who applaud that, all I can say is: SEE YOU IN THE MESQUITE CASINOS! Of course you all could charter buses to take you there. You’d be all friendly with each other on the trip down, and the trip back, but of course while in the casinos themselves, you would NEVER recognize each other. . .
    Now I do dearly love this state. And actually, I like most of the people I have met here. But the hypocrisy just is sickening.

    • Daniel March 27, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Just because some people are hypocritical in their words and actions does not make every single person who lives in the state of Utah a hypocrite. The columnist just blasted the Utah Legislature as being close-minded and in the same breathe calls everyone in the state a hypocrite because some people choose to go gamble outside of the state. Sounds like the road to closed mindedness is being traveled by more then just the Legislature, OR the majority culture.

  • The Gambler March 27, 2013 at 11:44 am

    I do make that “run for the border” every weekend. And I really enjoy myself at it. To bad that Ed made a run for the border…..the Mexican border. I imagine it’s working out quite well for him too. At least they allow gambling in Mexico. And the tax structure there is mush easier to swallow….along with that cold frosty margarita.

    • Big Don March 27, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      I’m willing to bet that Ed is one heck of a lot happier there, than he was here. At least as far as the politics and religion are concerned. I applaud him for making the move.

    • barryq April 7, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      You don’t have to “run for the border” to play a state lottery. You can do it from the comfort of your own home, even in Utah.

      Just call the Massachusetts Lottery and buy a subscription to …

      They will change a few dollars to send you the tickets by UPS.
      Ed. ellipsis.

  • Charles March 27, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    First money is fungible meaning if the Lotto is providing X$ that means that the Spenders can spend it somewhere else i.e. buy more votes with it, not all but most of it and how about all those Gov jobs it will provide, that’s what we need more fat wallet gov employees to give pensions to. Compare the amount of money spent on tickets in Cali to the amount given to the schools, shocking the difference but the Teachers need to have their fat pensions funded somehow don’t they? Why not from stupid people?

    And finally, the Lotto like cigs and alcohol are low class addictions and taxes. Those least able to afford them are the most likely to spend their money on them. Do we really need to take quality food from their children so they can waste it on Lotto tickets?

  • loren m.m. March 27, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    this idiot (kocelia specifically) doesn’t know that, while the citizens of California contribute a billion to the school system, via their lottery, the legislature cuts that billion, or more from the school system, for other budgetary items it perceives as more important instead.

    rather than augment the schools, as it is usually pitched, the lottery becomes a replacement support, and not even fully that, in far too many states.

    stupid…Utah legislatures are right on this issue..keep school funding open, and above board..


  • STG Dood March 27, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Ed, you would be a great government official if not for the City, the state. Too bad you don’t put your energy that goes into these good writes into bringing this city/state out of economic termoil that continues due to the idiocy of “leadership”.

  • Ed Kociela March 27, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    STG Dood: Actually, I was approached once by some political folks to run. At the time, it would have been against Dave Clark and I would have loved to run against him and debate him. But, I was working at the newspaper at the time and would have had to give up my job to do so because of the conflict of interest. I thought long and hard about it, but realized I would have had to draw an income in some other way, then be jobless after losing the election. But, boy, I would have loved the opportunity to go nose-to-nose with Clark even though I know a liberal Democrat who inhaled and believes in gay rights, gun control, and the Obama health care package has no chance. Imagine the opening day of the Legislature with me walking into the House.

    • Mojave Red April 2, 2013 at 11:23 pm

      Ed, you wouldn’t have stood a snowball’s chance against the angry, armed and dangerous, paranoid, pistol packin’ Utah GOP legislators. They would have filled you full of enough lead to kill a condor! I too would have really enjoyed watching you debate Clark, though. It would have been especially rewarding to watch the smug bastard squirm when you put the screws to him about the billion$ in bailout funds that Zions Bank accepted, but has failed to repay to the Fed.

      Please continue tweaking the goofy “leaders” who run this holier-than-thou state. Of course, I’m referring to the LDS church “leaders” who pull the state legislators’ strings.

      Suck down an icey marg and give yourself a pat on the back!

      • Brad December 16, 2014 at 11:27 am

        Yes the LDS Church is behind the ban on all gambling and lottos. Let’s call a spade a spade. The Church is worried that its tithing donations from its largest concentration of members will be used to buy lottery tickets. That’s also why they have a ‘word of wisdom’ banning members from tea, alcohol, and tobacco. Longer lives and more tithing coming in, tax free!

  • Nigel January 2, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Is 2016 the year Alabama lawmakers consider a lottery?

    “People have constantly asked us, ‘When are you going to let us vote on a lottery?” Harper said. “I think it’s time the people had their say.”


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