Lottery stays on ballot | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lottery stays on ballot

Posted By on Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 12:13 PM

Word from a Bill Halter spokesman is that the state Supreme Court has voted 6-0 to reject a complaint to remove the lottery amendment from the Nov. 4 ballot. New Justice Elana Wills did not participate.

Here's the decision.

The court said the ballot title was sufficient and a rewording of the lottery prohibition in the Constitution did not amount to its repeal. It said voters can understand what the phrase state lottery means. (Opponents had argued it could open the door to many unanticipated forms of gambling.)

But, finally, about casinos. The court didn't resolve the question of whether they are a lottery, and thus permissible only by the state if this amendment is adopted, or already a matter left up to the legislature. Read the tea leaves:

We have said that the Constitution does not invalidate every statute that makes gambling legal; it forbids only the legalization of lotteries and lottery tickets. Once again, we have held that, except as to lotteries, the Constitution left to the General Assembly the question of permitting, prohibiting, or regulating gambling.  “Lottery” as defined in Burks v. Harris, does not include every game of chance. A lottery is a species of gaming, which may be defined as a scheme for the distribution of prizes by chance among persons who have paid, or agreed to pay, a valuable consideration for the chance to obtain a prize. It is essential to a lottery that the winners be determined by chance alone.

Petitioner nonetheless earnestly asserts that there is a possibility that the amendment, if adopted, will be interpreted to permit “casino gaming,” and that this undisclosed risk will give voters serious ground for reflection on how to vote. To support this possibility, he relies upon the Supreme Court of Kansas [which] held that “lottery,” as used in a constitutional amendment permitting state-owned lotteries, was broad enough to include casino gambling. While we held in Parker v. Priest, that voters can readily understand terms such as “state lottery” and “casino gambling,” we have not decided whether “casino gaming” is a type of lottery within the definition of Burks v. Harris, supra. For us to address the issue now would necessarily involve construing the proposed amendment and speculating about its future impact on current laws. As we have said, we cannot engage in the interpretation and construction of the text of the amendment and speculate on future legislation.

At a minimum, they've left room for the existing racino operators to argue that the legislature could expand gambling options to real cards, roulette, craps, etc., without necessarily being seen as running a lottery.

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