Our transparent lottery UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Our transparent lottery UPDATE

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 6:27 AM

The Democrat-Gazette continues to provide useful new texture to our understanding of the state lottery, along with more reason to scoff at the memory of legislators proclaiming the transparency and purity of the endeavor.

The latest reason to arch your eyebrow is news that -- unbeknownst to all but the insiders -- the legislature did not approve merely the old-fashioned lottery described by advocates. You know, some weekly drawings and scratchoff tickets.

No, it turns out the law was intentionally written vaguely and included an override of an old state law outlawing all manner of gambling ranging from keno to roulette to wagering on horses.

House Speaker Robbie Wills admits readily -- now -- that he thought the legislature approved keno, a casino game, that could be played in restaurants and bars. (I've played. It drains your wallet, but fast.) There's a thought that video poker is also authorized, along with all manner of so-callled "draw" games. Some legal questions need to be ironed out.

But be clear: If it turns out as legislative leaders intended, the state will soon be issuing permits for all manner of little mini-casinos all over Arkansas, with multiple ways to lose your money -- keno, poker, horse race game wagering, Powerball, scratchoffs (up to $20 a ticket, sounds like) and who knows what all once the "intentionally" flexible law is fully implemented.

I don't oppose gambling, per se. But I don't much like subterfuge. The lottery has been rife with it, from the hiring of employees on down.

Jerry Cox was right.

UPDATE -- Please note in D-G story that lottery director Ernie P. says he will turn to legislators for instruction on what they intended. If anything puts the lie to the fiction of an independent state lottery, this should do it. Legislative intent is measured only by the words of the statute, as any lawyer knows. What Robbie Wills thinks is irrelevant in a court of law as to intent. The commission should read the law, seek legal opinions and call its own shots. But in the political world of the lottery, where the shots are all called by -- not the legislature but by a handful of ruling legislators -- the law is an irrelevant ass.

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