Utah Lawmaker is Proposing Legalization that Would Create a State Lottery

January 2, 2024 | Legislature

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (December 30, 2023) — Rep. Kera Birkeland of Utah is proposing the legalization of the lottery in the state as a means to alleviate the burden of rising property taxes on older constituents with fixed incomes. Utah is one of the few states, along with Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, and Nevada, that does not currently offer a lottery. The prevailing opposition to gambling in Utah, largely influenced by the dominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has prevented the establishment of any form of gambling in the state.

Rep. Birkeland argues that legalizing the lottery could generate up to $200 million in revenue for the state, money that is currently flowing to neighboring states as Utah residents cross state lines to purchase lottery tickets. She emphasizes the impact of rising property taxes on seniors, citing cases where individuals on fixed incomes are forced to sell their homes due to increased tax bills.

The proposal, however, faces significant hurdles, as the Utah Constitution prohibits “any game of chance.” Rep. Birkeland’s plan includes a constitutional amendment, requiring support from two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers and approval by a majority of voters in the upcoming general election.

The bill’s full details are yet to be revealed, and Rep. Birkeland is considering including a stipulation that mandates tax revenue from lottery sales to be used to offset the tax burden on older adults with fixed incomes.

While Rep. Birkeland acknowledges the challenges ahead, she believes the conversation about addressing the concerns of constituents, particularly regarding property taxes, is crucial. Governor Spencer Cox has expressed his opposition to the idea, stating that he believes lotteries and gambling, in general, are detrimental and function as taxes on individuals who are not adept at math.

Despite the obstacles and opposition, Rep. Birkeland is determined to push for the bill, emphasizing the importance of addressing the primary concern of her constituents and initiating a conversation on Capitol Hill about potential solutions.

SOURCE: LI Contributor.

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