Lottery discussion underway | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lottery discussion underway

Posted By on Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 2:05 PM

Gerard Matthews is covering the legislature's Lottery Oversight Committee. The god squadders (Jerry Cox and the Stepford gang) are out in force to decry lottery vending machines. Sen. Bob David Johnson reminds the committee it's not its place to approve/disapprove lottery vending machines. Separation of powers, see.

Ernie P., according to Gerard's Twitter feed, is talking more about benefits. For example, requiring a set percentage of lottery proceeds to scholarships could affect the prize structure and the amount going to students. Ernie P. is quick to say he's not interested in video lottery terminals.

Republican legislators are lying in wait to score points with the Coxmen. Good. Since more than 60 percent voted for the lottery and the number, with scholarship money going out, is probably higher now, this is one they can't demagogue to much effect, except with their base.

More now from Gerard:

There were other things on the agenda besides a review of the lottery commission's decision to change their operational rules to allow the use of ticket vending machines, or TVMs. After a brief report from higher education director Jim Purcell, lottery director Ernie Passailaigue presented the lottery's July sales figures to the legislative oversight committee. According to Passailaigue, lottery revenues for the month of July totaled just over $35 million, but that only $8 million of that, or 24 percent, would be going to the education fund for scholarships.

Passailaigue defended the amount of money going to scholarships, saying that start-up lotteries will always have some issues including start-up costs and questions about how to deal with unclaimed prize money. The percentage is likely to grow, the lottery director said. He discouraged legislators from attempting to setting a firm requirement for the percentage of lottery proceeds that must go to scholarships. According to Passailaigue, setting such a requirement would affect the prize structure set up by the lottery and ultimately reduce the amount of dollars going to students.

As for the discussion on vending machines, legislators did raise questions, but generally stayed away from the sort of grandstanding we've seen in lottery oversight meetings before. Questions focused on the need to make sure there are controls in place to prevent child gambling. Rep. Darrin Williams said he didn't think underage gambling would really be a problem since the players are paid in vouchers that can only be used by those who are of age and because the machines simply weren't that fun to play.

Jerry Cox, director of the Family Council, the group that has challenged the lottery from the very beginning, again voiced his concerns about underage gambling and problem gambling. The machines, he says, will make it easier for problem gamblers to compulsively buy tickets. For example, Cox said, a gambler would not feel any sense of embarrassment for compulsively buying tickets from a machine, where they might be a little reluctant to do so from a person.

A much needed moment of levity arrived at the end of the meeting in the form of Kenny Wallis, a member of the anti-everything group Secure Arkansas. Wallis showed up to the hearing wearing a Jim Keet shirt and Sen. Terry Smith loudly objected to Wallis testifying in political campaign garb and said he should either take his shirt off or not speak at all. Committee chairman Sen. David Johnson said he would prefer that Wallis remain clothed. Rep. Rick Green offered to let Wallis wear his sport coat during his comments. Green is much bigger than Wallis, so the coat draped around his shoulders quite comically as he proceeded to once again reiterate his opposition to the lottery, and spending taxpayer money on projects involving the Ivory-billed Woodpecker or social justice and any other programs that "waste" tax dollars.

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