Clarifying the lottery | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Clarifying the lottery

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 10:24 AM

House Speaker Robbie Wills must think a lot of people read the Arkansas Blog. I'm flattered by the attention. So let me clarify for him what I've been saying.

When the lottery amendment was on the ballot, I argued at great length with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter that one of the reasons I planned to vote against it (and did) was that I knew it would open the door to much more than scratchoff tickets and weekly lottery drawings. Halter said he was sure the legislature would not let that happen.

The legislature did precisely as I feared once voters ended the constitutional prohibition on lottery gambling insofar as a state lottery was concerned. Under terms of a little repealing clause, the legislature exempted the state lottery from a number of gambling prohibitions. The lottery, through this change, can offer roulette. It can offer sports wagering. It can offer poker games. And lots, lots more.

The more includes keno. This particular lottery game apparently got mentioned at one legislative committee meeting but drew scant newspaper attention at the time. The bigger issue was creation of the conventional lottery. The world at large, from the governor on down, knew nothing of this.

Now we learn that the new lottery director wants to offer keno in restaurants and bars. It's a casino-style game. It would encourage buildings that house gambling, as opposed to convenience stores where cashiers sell tickets along with honey buns and Big Gulps. That may not be a casino by law, but a room holding people who guzzle drinks and gamble all day long is a casino by any common-sense application of the term. I think it's a bad idea. It's exactly the sort of gambling proliferation I feared. I don't think it's what most voters expected. Wills is clearly for it, else he wouldn't be arguing so strenuously that too much is being made of it. (It's been a bust in some other states, by the way.)

Contrary to what Wills writes, I have not been the least bit confused about how the commission is or should-be run. The legislature has controlled it from the get-go. I never expected otherwise. The commission and its staff will, in the main, do what Wills, Johnson, etc., want, including hiring their pals. I'm a realist. That's the system. I just don't like the dishonesty of all the high-blown rhetoric about how clean this operation would be. They've already crapped out on that.

For somebody who thinks the legislature should stay out of this, Wills sure is getting deep into it. (So deep that some have begun wondering if maybe he sees himself as a future Ernie P.)

But, to be clear Mr. Speaker, I'm not asking legislators to do anything. You've already done it.

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