Nevada lottery illegal, but casinos try keno-lottery game
LAS VEGAS (AP) – In a state in which most anything goes and casinos abound, a state lottery isn’t just outlawed, it’s unconstitutional.
Now a hybrid casino game that combines features of keno with the lottery games popular in other states, and which offers potentially huge jackpots, has sent state regulators back to the rule book.
A nightly, statewide ”Nevada Numbers” drawing is being tested in keno lounges at Bally’s Las Vegas, Paris Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Hilton.
Two dollars buys a chance to pick five numbers drawn from 80 spinning balls. Bettors who hit all five numbers win a jackpot that can climb above $30 million. Fewer matching numbers earn smaller prizes, down to $1 for one number.
”It’s the simplest, easiest game,” said Debbie Munch, spokeswoman for Las Vegas-based Park Place Entertainment Corp.
Cindy McLaughlin tried it once, winning back $1 out of the $20 she spent on 10 tickets, but doubts she will play it again.
”This game is a lot like playing the lottery, but it’s not,” said McLaughlin, 48, of Las Vegas.
Keno, a game resembling bingo in which a player can pick sets of numbers out of 80 for various payouts, is defined as a gambling game under Nevada law.
A keno jackpot is based on how many numbers a player picks, while a state lottery jackpot depends on the number of people playing. If a keno jackpot is worth more than the players put in, the casino has to pay the difference. State lotteries also allow part of the proceeds to be used for other distributions, such as charities, while keno allows the majority to be paid back to the player.
The new game offers a jackpot beginning at $5 million, a record for keno, and growing. Previously the most keno players could win was $100,000.
”It combines some aspects of the lottery, some aspects of keno and the best of ‘Megabucks,”’ a statewide dollar slot machine game, Munch said.
Megabucks, Nevada’s first statewide progressive game, was introduced in 1986 to compete with the California lottery, said Shannon Bybee, executive director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Nevada Numbers was taken to regulators as a spinoff of keno, said Dennis Neilander, chairman of the state Gaming Control Board.
The board had to hold a public hearing before ”we ultimately recommended that it was a keno game” rather than a lottery, Neilander said.
Nevada Numbers is expected to receive a final OK from state regulators within 90 days.
Industry experts, however, still consider it an attempt at an end-run around Nevada’s 1864 constitutional prohibition on state lotteries.
The gaming industry has traditionally opposed any possibility of the state competing for gamblers’ dollars, and legislative measures to launch a state lottery have been defeated 14 times since 1975. The latest proposal was defeated just this spring.
On the Net:
Nevada Gaming Commission: http://gaming.state.nv.us/
Las Vegas Gaming Inc.: http://www.lvgi.com
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