States where you can’t play Powerball
(ABC News) — With tonight’s Powerball drawing set at a staggering $1.5 billion, jackpot junkies eagerly await the announcement for the winning numbers to see whether they beat the odds.
Forty-four states across the country participate in the multi-state lottery, with Wyoming being the most recent addition to the Powerball game in 2014.
But residents of Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah will have to head out of state to buy a ticket for the chance to cash in on the winning numbers of the largest Powerball jackpot of all time. Not only do these six states not participate in the lottery game, they don’t even have state lotteries of their own.
While states like Utah and Hawaii outlaw all gambling of all kinds — be it charitable, commercial, at a racetrack, or on an Indian reservation casino — others just require residents to cross state lines to get their drawings fixes or play at state-approved casinos such as those in Nevada and Mississippi.
Nevada State Gaming Control Board chairman A.G. Burnett told ABC News in 2013 that Nevada doesn’t have a lottery because of a decision in the state legislature made over 50 years ago.
“There was a decision in the state of Nevada as to whether we’d be just a casino-style gaming state or a state that allowed lotteries,” he said. “The legislature put that language in years ago that said, we’re just going to be a casino gaming state without a lottery.”
As a result, the state bans lotteries with the exception of charitable drawings held by schools, local elks’ clubs or boy scouts. Even then, these raffles need to be approved by the gaming control board, said Burnett, who signs off on five to 10 of those requests a month.
Burnett said every few years, there’s a proposal to instate a commercial lottery in Nevada, but the rumblings usually die down.
“I think it’s the gaming industry that doesn’t want to have a lottery,” he said. “That’s pretty much the prevailing view even today.”
In the Bible Belt, Alabama state Rep. Mack Butler this week told ABC affiliate station WBMA-TV in Birmingham that residents should be able to vote on a state lottery.
“People are going to our border states and those dollars are leaving, so if we could keep those dollars here it will be beneficial to the people of Alabama,” he said, adding that the topic will be front and center this legislative session.
Meanwhile, in Mississippi, where the gaming industries in cities like Gulfport and Biloxi have grown sizably, instating a lottery has been off the table.
“Every year we do have lottery bills that are filed, but typically it doesn’t even make it out of the gaming committee,” Rob Vickery, staff officer at the executive division of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, told ABC News in 2013. “I think that casino operators like the current situation because they’re the only game in town and the more conservative legislators don’t really want to go on the record as voting for gaming.
“You have this kind of unholy alliance that the gaming industry and the anti-gaming people would come together and be against the expansion of gaming, which would include lotteries,” he said.
But Mississippi also offers charitable gaming to its residents, boasting dozens of bingo parlors throughout the state, Vickery said.
Jon Griffin, a senior policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said that while there’s ample funding for casino studies, there hasn’t been much empirical research on the economic impact on states that did not participate in lotteries.
“I’ve never conducted any research as to why these states aren’t participating in lotteries,” he told ABC News in 2013. “With so many states having lotteries compared to states that have casino gaming, most people don’t think much about state lotteries.”
In Utah, where the state constitution bans all forms of gambling, residents have flooded gas stations in recent days to buy tickets along the border with Wyoming and Idaho. And because most legislators are Mormons who oppose gambling, according to the AP, a change in the constitution is unlikely.
Alaska residents can only try their luck in similar charitable gaming options, including bingo, pull tabs, dog mushers’ contests and raffles. But in terms of getting involved with the lottery, there’s no draw for locals.
“Alaska has been more concerned that a lottery wouldn’t pay off in such a sparsely populated state,” The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
It’s the same story in Hawaii, where lawmakers have proposed lottery measures, the AP said, but the idea always fails.
And the state penal code is explicit: “Under prior law it was a misdemeanor to set up or assist in any type of lottery scheme, to sell or buy a ticket or chance in a lottery scheme.”