Utahns find ways to gamble despite it being illegal in the state — but the cost is high
Neighboring Utah isn't a likely partner in that endeavor. "I don't see us legalizing gambling in Utah," Valentine said.
Hatch agrees, though he left the door slightly ajar.
"I don't think the people of Utah would tolerate it, but you never know," he said. "It's one thing to bet a dollar on a University of Utah-BYU game. That may be fun to do. Or do the normal small things, bet on a golf course or something like that. But I think it's better not to gamble, period."
In a pre-emptive strike, the Utah Legislature last year passed a bill that would allow the state to opt out of any federal law that OKs online gambling. The measure also specifically outlawed gambling on computers and hand-held devices, which was not previously spelled out in Utah law.
Had that not been expressly prohibited, it would have set the stage for Native American tribes to open casinos in the state, said Sandstrom, who carried the bill.
That is because federal law since 1988 has recognized the right of Indian tribes to build casinos or other gambling establishments on their reservations, as long as the state where they are located has some form of legalized gambling. Utah has no tribal casinos because the state outlaws all forms of gambling.
"The true idea was to preserve Utah as one of only two states in the nation that does not have any form of gambling that is legal," he said. "If we had done nothing, it would have made it legal to do Internet gaming in the state of Utah, which would have opened the door for flat gaming on Indian reservations."
Sandstrom, however, conceded police could use the statute to crack down on Internet gambling.
"If Utah really did want to do a sting and start prosecuting people that did online gambling, we could do it because of my law," he said. But "the real reason for doing it wasn't to have people kicking in doors and arresting people playing gambling games on their home computer."
A Utah lottery?
At least a couple of websites and Facebook pages exist that promote the creation of a Utah lottery. But they don't appear to have any serious momentum.
Rex Howard had more than 3,200 likes on his Facebook page, 1,000,000 People in Favor of a Utah Lottery. He's trying to mount a letter-writing campaign urging state lawmakers to consider a lottery as a means to increase funding for Utah's public school system.
"I think it's absolutely possible as the political climate changes in Utah," he said.
Utahlottery4.utah.com offers T-shirts and hats printed with "Utah $$$ Lotto" for $10. Attempts to reach the contact name listed on the site, David James Allen, were unsuccessful.
It turns out he was booked into the Davis County Jail in March on charges of theft and attempting to distribute drugs. In his mug shot, Allen is wearing a shirt with "Utah $$$ Lotto" embroidered on the sleeve.
Michael Geraghty started an online petition for a Utah lottery at ipetitions.com last April. To date it has eight signatures, three of which belong to Geraghty.
"I can't hardly get anyone to sign the petition," he said. "I thought it was totally reasonable."
Geraghty, a 61-year-old retired nurse who drives to Idaho every month to buy lottery tickets, said his effort for a Utah lottery started after he read a news report stating that 19 percent of Idaho's lottery proceeds come from Utahns who make the same trip he does.
"It is obvious to me that Utah's current laws concerning the lottery are not what the people want," he said. "It's not that evil."
Bernal would disagree.
Utah, he said, is one of the best places in the country for business development and has low state debt due in large part to resisting government sponsored gambling as a way to fund public services.
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