House members harshly attacked the evils of gambling, criticizing the governments of the UK, Australia and Canada but eventually passed a piece of legislation seeking to allow Powerball to continue to be offered by the Idaho Lottery, even after the game, which is currently available in multiple states, expands into the UK and Australia. The bill called HB 607 passed with 41 to 25 votes and is now to head to the Senate.
Representative Heather Scott, who headed an effort to kill similar legislation in committee in 2021, explained to the House that the gambling expansion into two other countries’ regulated markets, such as the UK, Australia and Canada, and then to “communist countries” is not something that should be done.
She further noted that last year, local lawmakers were told that Powerball would be discontinued in case the bill is killed but that did not happen.
The House sponsor of HB 607, Representative Jason Monks, said that contract negotiations took longer than initially expected, so Idaho received a “freebie” in the form of another year to take the issue into consideration.
State Legislators Involved in Lively Debate about the Powerball Expansion
The piece of legislation that dates back to 2021 just opened up lottery operations to become part of games that involve any other jurisdictions. In its turn, this year’s bill has a narrower scope to only authorize Powerball’s expansion in the UK and Australia.
Currently, Powerball is already available in 45 US states, two US territories, Washington DC and Canada.
Representative Monks, who sponsored HB 607 in the House, said he was no fan of gambling and would support doing away with it in the state of Idaho. However, the Constitution of the state now allows a state lottery.
Another Representative, Sally Toone, explained that Australia and Canada are parliamentary systems of government and cannot be described as “communist countries”. Other Representatives, such as Randy Armstrong, noted that gambling was a dangerous activity, so legislators should be careful about the authorization of the lottery. Mr. Armstrong said that the permission for Powerball’s expansion to more areas was likely to make it more attractive to customers by boosting jackpots, which could have a detrimental effect on homes, marriages, children and other vulnerable people that would suffer from the expansion.
The 1988 decision of Idaho residents to approve a state lottery was at the time criticized by Representative Bruce Skaug, who pointed out that the church, the Mormons and the Baptists had all been against it.
Apart from that, some legislators backed the proposed lottery expansion, as they believed that not offering the Powerball game would seriously hurt the convenience store business in Oneida and Franklin counties. Others, like Representative John McCrostie, explained they did not really understand some of the controversy surrounding the aforementioned bill and noted that the residents of Idaho could simply not be affected by the expansion of the Powerball offering in Australia or other countries across the globe.
The proposed piece of legislation still needs to receive the approval of a Senate Committee, pass the full Senate, and finally, to be signed by the Governor of the state to become law.
In 2021, Idaho lottery officials revealed that Powerball accounts for sales worth about $28 million on an annual basis. Tickets cost $3, while the current jackpot is estimated at $45 million.