Idaho puts an end to Powerball in the state, over fear of foreign participation

BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Idaho lawmakers who feared foreign participation in the Powerball lottery struck down legislation Wednesday that would have allowed jackpot gambling to continue in the state after a more than 30-year streak.

The move came after Idaho Lottery officials sought a change in state law because Powerball is expanding to include Australia in 2021 and Great Britain in 2022. But current Idaho law only allows in-state lotteries played. by people in the US and Canada.

Idaho was one of the first states to join Powerball in the 1990s. Since then, the lottery has grown to include 45 states, two US territories, and Washington, DC. The Multi-State Lottery Association administers the game.

The Idaho legislature is dominated by Republicans, but objections to the change were also raised by Democrats. The removal of the bill by a vote of 10 to 4 by the House State Affairs Committee of the Legislature means that the last Powerball drawing in the state will be in August.

Republican Representative Heather Scott was concerned that when Australia joins Powerball, the country’s officials could use the revenue generated from government coffers to support causes it opposes.

Scott expressed concern that it could happen “in Australia anti-gun causes, which they see as good and we see as not good.”

Democratic Rep. Chris Mathias said the Powerball in Idaho has been good for business and the state took millions for public education, but he is concerned that more countries will be added to the Powerball participation list.

“My concern is the delegation of authority, and essentially handing over our sovereignty to this Multi-State Lottery Association,” he said. “I think we should be concerned that they can be persuaded, they could be heavily pressured by countries with which we are not particularly friendly.”

Mathias wanted the bill amended to reflect those concerns and voted with another Democratic representative and two Republicans against repealing the legislation.

Idaho lottery officials have said the game generates about $ 28 million in sales annually in the state, and schools receive about $ 14 million per year.

The money generated from the sale of Powerball tickets is held in trust until there is a winner. The addition of two new countries and more players is expected to increase the size of the jackpot.

“This is a big jackpot game, so players like to have big jackpots,” Jeff Anderson, director of the Idaho Lottery, told lawmakers. “One of the ways to do it is to have more players in the game.”

Idaho’s biggest Powerball winner was a resident of the small town of Star, in the Southwest, who made $ 220 million in 2005.

Some Idaho lawmakers said they feared the odds of an Idaho resident winning would decrease with more players.

But the odds remain the same no matter how many players participate because the odds are not based on the number of players, but on the chances of particular numbers being selected. If there are multiple winners, the jackpots are divided.

Anderson tried to convince lawmakers to make the change in state law by assuring them that a country like China, with a different legal system than the United States, Australia and Britain, could never join.

Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug said he was concerned about the $ 3 million a year being spent on advertising to convince people to play Powerball. He proposed the motion that killed the legislation.

“What we have is 32 years of Idahoans who can voluntarily play a lottery game of their choice,” Anderson said after the vote. “Thirty-two years has been good, not now. It is very worrying “.

Anderson said Powerball will end in Idaho on August 23 due to voting.

He warned that in addition to the money Idaho schools will lose, the state will face “incalculable amounts of spending to undo all the advertising commitments we have for billboards and point-of-sale materials and everything else. This will be very expensive for the people of Idaho. “

Officials from the Multi-State Lottery Association in an email declined to comment on the Idaho Powerball decision.


This story has been corrected to show that the legislation was removed by a 10 to 4 vote, not a voice vote.


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