Six states don't play Powerball, but some could soon join in

As the Powerball jackpot surges before Wednesday night's drawing, people in six states have to drive much farther than to their nearest convenience store if they want to snag tickets.

Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah are the only states that don't play Powerball. Not one has a state-run lottery.

But some lawmakers are taking steps to change that. Alabama may vote on setting up a lottery as early as this year, as the state faces a budget shortfall in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The reality is our state budget is in a hole so big we simply cannot cut our way out of it. The only solution is more revenue,” Democratic representative Craig Ford wrote in an opinion article last year. He co-sponsored a bill to set up a lottery in Alabama.

Representative Jim Patterson, a Republican, tells WHNT his constituents largely support a lottery. But he adds, "I think the lottery can hurt the people you try to help the most."

In fact, many opponents say lotteries and related taxes disproportionately affect the poor. Other lawmakers cite religious objections. Utah and Hawaii ban nearly all forms of gambling.

Meanwhile, many casino owners in Nevada and Mississippi have fought to keep lotteries away, in order to protect their businesses.

In 2014, Wyoming became the most recent state to establish a lottery and join in on Powerball. Lawmakers had debated the issue for decades. People in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands can also buy Powerball tickets.

But for now, people in those six states without the game have to drive across state lines in order to try cashing in on the ten-figure prize. Or, for Alaskans and Hawaiians, it means traveling a lot farther.