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Politics & Government

Idaho Lawmakers Put Powerball's Future In Jeopardy

Charlie Neibergall

Idahoans may no longer be able to buy Powerball lottery tickets later this year after lawmakers torched a bill allowing the state to participate in multi-national gambling.

The group that oversees the Powerball lottery in the U.S. is expanding the game into Australia and the U.K. in August. But Idaho’s law only allows it to participate in multi-state lotteries – not international ones.

The House State Affairs Committee torpedoed a bill on a 10-4 vote that would’ve allowed multinational games over several concerns.

“It kind of reminds me of … dystopian novels and movies, ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘1984,’ about the big lottery – the false hope it gives people,” said Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa).

In addition, lawmakers and others said lotteries harm the state’s citizens.

“Please don’t expand more government in order to prey upon people who don’t understand mathematics,” said Wayne Hoffman, head of the influential right-wing lobbying group, the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

The chances of drawing all six numbers in the correct order to hit the Powerball jackpot are one in 292 million. Numbers are drawn twice weekly, with an additional third weekly drawing anticipated to begin in August.

Lobbying groups for gas stations and other retailers that sell Powerball tickets urged in vain for lawmakers to support the bill, saying it brings in money to support rural and urban businesses alike.

If the Idaho Lottery drops Powerball from its roster, it could lose out on millions of dollars in tax revenue. The game is significantly more popular than its cousin, MegaMillions, and brings in an average of $14 million annually.

That’s on top of the $8 million Powerball contributed to various education funds in 2020, according to the Idaho Lottery’s annual report.

Rep. Rod Furniss (R-Rigby) said the choice to jettison that money shouldn’t be made solely by a committee of 14 lawmakers.

“I would really like to share that vote with the floor and let them make a decision on that as a body,” Furniss said.

Powerball’s expansion is scheduled for Aug. 23, 2021.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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