Wyoming would tap lottery money under proposed bill

January 19, 2018

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The cash-strapped state of Wyoming would grab about $1 million a year in earnings from the statewide lottery, under a bill endorsed by a legislative panel.

The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee voted 9-3 Thursday to sponsor a bill in the upcoming legislative session that would allow the state to take 5 percent of the gross proceeds earned by the Wyoming Lottery. The money would go into the state general fund.

Rep. Bob Nicholas, co-chairman of the committee, brought the proposal, saying it would boost state coffers.

Over the last several years, the state has seen dwindling revenue from declining mineral taxes — its main source of revenue. The state has slashed its budget but still faces looming deficits, prompting some lawmakers to look for new sources of revenue.

WyoLotto started selling tickets in 2014 after the Legislature authorized its creation. Its profits are shared with cities, towns and counties. Since 2014, the lottery has transferred about $6.5 million to municipalities across the state.

The law requires that at least 45 percent of net proceeds from lottery sales be awarded out as prizes to players. It has paid out about $33.5 million in winnings to nearly 2.3 million WyoLotto players since 2014.

Nicholas noted that the lottery could afford to send a portion of its earnings to the state because it has paid off its start-up costs and is doing a good job of reducing its annual administrative expenses.

However, Pete Obermueller, executive director of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, spoke against the proposal, saying the bill would mean less money for cities, towns and counties.

“You will not be capturing revenue from the lottery, you will be capturing revenue from local government,” Obermueller said.

Matthew Kaufman, legal counsel for the Wyoming Lottery, said the lottery board of directors would not take a position on the proposal.

But Kaufman said the lottery is still fine-tuning its operations and growing and the state taking money now could hamper those efforts.

The Legislature convenes Feb. 12.

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