EVANSTON, Wyo. — The sign inside Discount Liquor jokingly refers to Evanston as “Providing Utahns’ beer, porn and illegal fireworks since 1869.”
Soon this border town will add lottery to the list of attractions.
The Wyoming State Legislature recently approved joining the Powerball lottery, and Evanston city leaders are gearing up for more Utahns to make a run for the border.
“I think, definitely, we could see an influx and kind of take away from Idaho,” joked Dawn Darby, the executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.
For years, residents in the greater Salt Lake City area who wanted to get in on a big Powerball jackpot have had to drive more than two hours to Malad, Idaho. During the last big jackpot, many stores in Evanston were stunned to find Utahns in line to buy lotto tickets. Clerks had to tell frustrated customers that ticket sales are still many months away.
“That’s not a good feeling at all,” said Doris Maestas, who works at Discount Liquor. “Because they’re excited, they want to come in and purchase their ticket. It’s kinda hard to tell them, ‘Sorry!’”
The lottery is expected to be a big boost to businesses in Evanston. Darby said they hoped people who made the 90 minute trip from Salt Lake City to Evanston would fill up at local gas stations, shop at local stores and eat at their restaurants.
“Anything that we can get that draws people into the town and into the state, all of those things will be good for our economy,” said Evanston Mayor Joy Bell.
Evanston has seen economic hard times lately, the mayor said in an interview Monday with FOX 13.
“Just sales tax in general, we lost $570,000 in our general fund last year,” she said.
Wyoming has earmarked lottery funds for road improvements and education. Cities and towns that sell tickets will also see allocated money from profits for their general fund — as much as $6 million, Bell said.
For many, Powerball can’t come fast enough. It isn’t expected to be up and running until 2014. Bell said she hoped for the first quarter of 2014, but Darby said she feared it could be as late as June or July. Also, Wyoming will not sell instant win “scratch tickets.”
To lure Utahns with lottery dreams, Darby said the Evanston Chamber of Commerce is considering incorporating it into their advertising in the Salt Lake City area — letting them know it’s just 90 minutes away.
“It’s going to be good for the city of Evanston,” said Maestas. “It’s definitely going to bring a lot of revenue. It’s going to be great.”