Utah to start 'liquor lottery' for rare, high-demand wine, beer and spirits

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah will debut a "liquor lottery" next month in an attempt to make the sale of rare and highly sought-after alcohol more fair.

The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control revealed plans Tuesday to hold random drawings for wine, beer and other spirits that it receives from manufacturers in limited supplies.

"This is not a lottery. This is a drawing," said Cade Meier, department deputy director. "There's nothing that a person will receive from the drawing except for the opportunity make a purchase."

The plan came as a result of several years of customer complaints about how the agency made a rare, limited edition bourbon called Pappy Van Winkle available to customers. High demand for the product created long lines at state liquor stores and left many customers empty-handed as they scrambled to find the right outlet.

"We feel that it's a more equitable way for distribution of the products, so that everyone has a fair and equal opportunity to have the opportunity to purchase these products," Meier said.

The drawing — using randomizing computer software — will be similar to those in other state agencies such as for hunting permits.

The alcohol commission website will have a link where people can create a profile and register for drawings as they come up.

Only Utah residents and military personnel stationed in the state are eligible. Drawings are not open to agency employees and their immediate families and members of the state alcohol commission. Liquor permit holders, such as bars and restaurants, also are not allowed to participate.

Under the terms and agreement, winners — limited to one per household — are not allowed to resell the product.

While lotteries are illegal in Utah, there is nothing in the law to prevent random drawings such as the one the liquor department is doing where the winner only gets the chance to buy a product, Meier said. He said the agency is on "very stable ground" and will comply with applicable laws.

Meier said the agency will hold its first drawing next month with a product that though not as popular as some, would make for a good test of the system.

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.


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