CHEYENNE — Wyoming residents can start thinking about their lucky numbers and dreaming about hitting the big one.
Gov. Matt Mead signed a bill into law Wednesday that lets the state create a lottery or join a multi-state game such as Powerball.
Wyoming is one of about a half dozen states without such prize drawings.
While he’s personally “lukewarm” about a lottery, Mead said he was persuaded by the prospect of Wyoming benefiting from its potential revenue and retaining the money that state residents have been spending on lottery tickets in bordering states.
“For me it was a question of how many people we have leaving the state, participating in the lottery in other states, and in doing so taking Wyoming money, Wyoming people out of the state, and not only buying a lottery (ticket) but the Coca-Cola, and the hotdog, the movie maybe or the dinner,” he said.
A lottery would bring an estimated $25 million a year to Wyoming. After expenses and prizes, it would net the state an estimated $6 million annually.
Under the law, the first $6 million in lottery proceeds will go to local governments. Any additional proceeds would go to a public school foundation fund.
The Legislature will review where the money is being spent after six years.
The use of the proceeds was a topic of debate as the bill moved through the Legislature, but Mead said he was OK with the money going to local governments first.
“I’ve continued to look at ways of providing more revenue to towns and counties,” he said.
Mead has until July 1 to appoint a nine-member board that will oversee the quasi-governmental corporation that will run the lottery. It’ll take about a year to get the lottery up and running.
While not wanting to pre-empt the future lottery board’s decisions, Mead said it seemed more practical for Wyoming to participate in a multi-state lottery rather than set up its own game.
A company that operates the multi-state lottery likely would provide the equipment and run the games in exchange for keeping a percentage of the ticket sales, he said.
A statewide lottery had been continually shot down in the Legislature since the 1980s.
Until this year, the lottery proposal had never even cleared the House, where revenue-generating bills must originate.
Opponents had long argued that a statewide lottery is a form of gambling and is a regressive tax on poor residents who play the game.