Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A casino proposal's obvious flaw

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2012 at 10:33 AM

POKER PALACE PROMOTER: Nancy Todd
  • POKER PALACE PROMOTER: Nancy Todd
I wrote yesterday that Delaware North, owner of the Southland Park casino at West Memphis where gamblers pour more than a billion a year into the slots, was financing a campaign to fight a couple of casino amendment campaigns, particularly a drive headed by Nancy Todd, a Las Vegas consultant and poker player, to give her exclusive right to operate four casinsos, in Pulaski Miller, Crittenden and Franklin counties.

The Southland park anti-casino campaign has already hit mailboxes with a hypocritical mailer decrying the predatory nature of casinos on families. Southland oughtta know. The flyer, needless to say, doesn't identify the underwriter or that it is the work of the infamous Markham Group of secretive political consultants.

Nonetheless, the Southland opposition makes some good points. One is this: Why give some monopoly casino rights to a single operator? Who better to know the benefit of a Crittenden County monopoly than Southland? Still, there's truth in this. If we're to gamble, let's gamble. Let's have competition and the greater investment this brings.

This is a better criticism: The unregulated nature of what Nancy Todd proposes. Here's what the amendment says: It is a measure "prohibiting the General Assembly and any political subdivision of the state from enacting any legislation, rules or regulations regarding casino gambling; prohibiting casino gambling at any other than the locations operated by Nancy Todd's Poker Palace and Entertainment Venues..."

Wow. Forget for a minute that this language arguably could clearly make illegal the casinos operating (as electronic games of skill parlors) at Southland and Oaklawn. Consider what a prohibition on regulation means? Supply your own nightmare. Scary stuff. Even the carefully regulated gambling businesses in other states — and our own lottery — have been subject to problems inherent in the cheaters and crooks that flock to any place piles of cash stack up.

I had a brief discussion in e-mails yesterday with Todd about the monopoly angle and lack of regulation. Her response:

Sure, if you look on the AG's site you will see in my first two versions I included a regulatory body. First one was the Arkansas Lottery Commission. AG Kicked it back saying they had no experience to distribute funds. So revised and put the Department of Finance, which has a built in regulatory arm in place. AG kicked that one back too. So in the interest of time I submitted one without a regulatory body listed knowing we will get the issue decided eventually, hopefully through the State Supreme Court, to pick the best one for the State.

As to the monopoly ... We are getting the issue passed and are asking the licenses be issued to us so that we can recommend to whoever the ultimate regulatory body is make the best decisions. You've had two tracks in the state for 100 years with the ultimate monopoly. We would like to break THAT monopoly

.

I said:

Not a good answer. If the amendment lets you open casinos without regulation legislative or otherwise I don't think the court can impose a regulatory scheme.

She said:

Hmmm. Interesting. Ok. We can't put in a regulatory body at some point is what you are saying?

Yeah, that's what I'm saying. The legislature can't amend the Constitution by giving itself or anyone else regulatory authority prohibited by the amendment.

What I don't know is if Todd is being disingenuous or is truly clueless. The high-dollar lawyer she used in Little Rock isn't a clueless sort, however.

Todd hasn't yet filed a financial report with the state Ethics Commission, so I can't gauge if the petition drive underway is sufficiently financed to get the job done. I think I can predict with some confidence, echoing Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's opinion certifying the form of the proposal, that a lawsuit seems likely to follow. The far-reaching consequences of an unregulated gambling monopoly that could imperil existing casinos isn't likely to come into being without it.

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