by Mike Stark, KSGW TV News reporter
After years of trying, Wyoming lawmakers are on the verge of bringing the lottery to the state. The State Senate approved its version of the bill Friday. The House passed its bill earlier this session.
Small business owners like Tom and Kathy Gearhart, the co-owners of Gearhart Sinclair in Sundance, believe Wyoming legislators should not have waited this long to approve a lottery bill.
“I think there’s a lot of money that can be left here in the state. And you look around at these other places that do have it, seems like they do pretty good off of it,” said Tom Gearhart.
The couple thinks installing a lottery machine in their business would boost their revenue stream.
“I think it would increase foot traffic. It’s always important to get somebody in the door, they usually buy something else,” said Kathy Gearhart.
Though Wyoming does not have a state lottery, people still find ways to play the games.
“Many times I see people from Wyoming buying video lottery tickets, scratch-tile tickets, and also the Powerball tickets in South Dakota,” said Spearfish Mayor Jerry Krambeck.
Krambeck expects Spearfish stores to continue attracting out–of–towners. But he says fewer people from Wyoming may make the trip now that they’ll have their own lottery.
“I think a lot of times they might pool money together and send one person over and buy 100 tickets. And since they do that, I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t affect the economy,” said Krambeck.
The Gearharts are excited by the prospects. They say they are part of the reason South Dakota’s economy benefits so much from people coming in from Wyoming to get lottery tickets.
“We’ve done the lottery and when we’re over there we’ll do some shopping and then we usually end up in Deadwood,” said Tom Gearhart.
The Senate’s version of the bill sends lottery revenues to Wyoming schools, but the House bill benefits city and county governments. The two sides will address the differences in a conference committee before the governor can sign the bill into law.