POLITICS & ELECTIONS

Utah Republican lawmaker wants to legalize lottery to help pay for property tax cuts

Dec 30, 2023, 8:07 PM

Utah Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, is sponsoring a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize t...

Utah Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, is sponsoring a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize the lottery in Utah to help offset the tax burden of older adults on fixed incomes. (Wilfredo Lee, The Associated Press)

(Wilfredo Lee, The Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Kera Birkeland has heard from several older constituents on fixed incomes who are struggling to keep up with rising property taxes, and the Morgan Republican has an unconventional proposal for relief: legalize the lottery in Utah.

The Beehive State is one of the few remaining holdouts in the United States that doesn’t offer some kind of lottery, along with Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii and Nevada. While the state’s politics generally favor unregulated business, the prevailing faith — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which is followed by a majority of state lawmakers, is opposed to all forms of gambling.

Utah and Hawaii are the only states that prohibit all forms of gambling.

But Birkeland said legislative researchers estimate the state is missing out on as much as $200 million in revenue from lottery tickets, which is currently going to neighboring states like Idaho, Wyoming and Arizona as Utah residents cross state lines to purchase tickets.

“I talked to a gentleman whose dad is 92 years old, and his property tax bill has gone up so much that he is having to put his house up for sale,” she told KSL.com. “He’s paid his fair share, why is he being forced out of his home to pay those taxes?”

The full details of the bill have not yet been made public, and Birkeland says she has yet to write a stipulation into the bill that would require tax revenue gained from lottery sales be used to offset the tax burden of older adults on fixed incomes.

“I am personally more concerned about senior citizens living on fixed incomes,” she said. “It’s not in the legislation, but something I’m looking into.”

The Utah Constitution prohibits “any game of chance,” so Birkeland’s proposal includes a constitutional amendment that would need support from two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers before being approved by a majority of voters in the upcoming general election.

Birkeland isn’t the first Utah lawmaker to try to change the state’s prohibition on gambling, and previous legislative efforts have failed to gain traction. A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision struck down a federal law that barred sports betting in most states, and while several states moved to legalize betting, Utah was not one of them.

A state senator from Provo proposed a bill in 2021 to legalize playing “skill-based games,” but the proposal met resistance over concerns that it would open the door to gambling. A proposal to legalize betting on horse races similarly stalled in 2019.

Birkeland’s proposal is already getting pushback from one powerful Utahn. Although the governor doesn’t have the power to veto proposed constitutional amendments, Spencer Cox said during his monthly news conference last week that he is opposed to the idea.

“I’ve said many times that I think lotteries and gambling in general are taxes on people who are bad at math and they do more harm than good,” he said.

For her part, Birkeland is aware that passing the bill will be an uphill climb, but said she’s “up for a challenge.”

“I’ve ran a number of bills that try to cap property taxes and try to reduce government spending, and none of them ever go anywhere,” she said. “And so, for my colleagues, for individuals who are opposed to the lottery where the revenue would reduce property taxes, I’d say, ‘Then what?’ … I think that’s a really important conversation to have on Capitol Hill as we go into this session, because that is really the No. 1 concern of my constituents. And if we need to have the conversation around a lottery to elevate that and actually address the issue, then so be it.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Politics & Elections

Eduardo Baca Cuenca, general consul of the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City, discusses voting by...

Tim Vandenack, KSL.com

‘They want to participate’: Mexicans in Utah will be able to take part in Mexico’s presidential vote

As the U.S. presidential campaign heats up, a parallel campaign south of the U.S. border for the Mexican presidency is reaching a crescendo.

20 hours ago

President Joe Biden at the US Military Academy commencement ceremony in West Point, New York, on Ma...

Aileen Graef, Athena Jones and Shania Shelton, CNN

Biden touts expansion of NATO and actions in the Middle East during West Point commencement

President Joe Biden touted the expansion of NATO, his actions in the Middle East and progress in lowering military sexual assaults in a commencement address to the West Point graduating class Saturday.

20 hours ago

Nathaniel Woodward announced ats UDP's Democratic nominee for Congressional District 2. (Photo: @Ut...

Carlysle Price

Utah Democratic Party announced Nathaniel Woodward as nominee for U.S. Congressional District 2

The Utah Democratic Party announced Nathaniel Woodward as their nominee for U.S. Congressional District 2 after a virtual, ranked choice vote that took place Saturday morning.

22 hours ago

FILE - Associate Justice Samuel Alito joins other members of the Supreme Court as they pose for a n...

Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press

Democratic senators request meeting with Chief Justice Roberts over flags flown at Alito’s homes

Two Democratic senators are requesting a meeting with Chief Justice John Roberts after reports that two separate flags carried by rioters at the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol had flown outside of houses owned by Justice Samuel Alito.

2 days ago

FILE - Steam billows from a coal-fired power plant Nov. 18, 2021, in Craig, Colo. The U.S. Securiti...

David A. Lieb, Associated Press

Republican AGs ask Supreme Court to block climate change lawsuits brought by several states

Utah state attorney general joins eighteen other Republican AGs in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to get involved in a dispute over climate-change lawsuits.

2 days ago

The RNC convention which will take place at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee in July accuses Secret Servic...

Steve Contorno and Kristen Holmes, CNN

RNC and Secret Service escalate dispute over security at Milwaukee convention

The RNC is accusing the Secret Service of ignoring security concerns around its July Milwaukee convention.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Utah Republican lawmaker wants to legalize lottery to help pay for property tax cuts