Favorite

Betting on Arkansas 

Gambling is in the news.

A November vote is scheduled on a state lottery, if a lawsuit doesn't remove it from the ballot.

Meanwhile, the legislature was treated to a whinefest last week. Bingo hall operators complained that a modest state tax — about 5.6 percent on gross revenues — was cutting into the charitable work of the alleged nonprofits that are operating the games, chiefly veterans and fraternal organizations.

The legislators should have devoted some attention to how much of the profit from these bingo games goes to “internal” charity — that is, the nonprofit itself — and how much goes to “external” charity. Overall, the bingo halls are putting about 6 percent of their take into charity of any sort. In Arkansas, where bingo is allegedly operated only by volunteer labor, this return is suspiciously paltry.

The lottery amendment could provide a solution to the bingo operators' problems over time, even as it brings an end to the constitutional obstacle to  full-blown casinos at Oaklawn and Southland Park or anywhere else.

I'll explain. But first, there's the Family Council's lawsuit to remove the lottery amendment from the ballot. The lottery amendment repeals the Arkansas Constitution's general prohibition on lotteries. Neither the proposal's popular name nor ballot title takes note of that material fact. The Supreme Court generally takes a dim view of ballot titles that don't adequately disclose major provisions.

The repeal of the lottery prohibition is meaningful. That prohibition has limited the spread of gambling in Arkansas. Though some dispute the view, court precedent and practice generally have held that games of chance are banned by the Constitution's lottery prohibition.

Out of that belief grew the fiction of “electronic games of skill.” This type of gambling (video poker and blackjack mainly) joined pari-mutuel wagering as a legal activity at Oaklawn and Southland Parks, now racinos more than racetracks.

If the lottery prohibition in the Constitution is removed, you could argue that voters will have removed the last bar to legislative control of all gambling.

Backers of the lottery amendment have a curious defense to this alarmist notion. They say the state will run only traditional lotteries under their amendment, not other games of chance. Besides, they argue, gambling is not barred by the Constitution now, rather by legislation. If this pro-lottery legal argument prevails, it will insure that gambling becomes a legislative rather than voter prerogative in the future.

This possibility might explain the silence of the racinos on the lottery, which otherwise will produce new gambling competition.

Should the lottery supporters prevail, you can bet that racino lobbyists will be at the Capitol soon after. If gambling regulation is up to the legislature, they'll argue that there's little fundamental difference in allowing blackjack and poker with cards as well as by video terminals. And they'll argue that, to compete against Mississippi and raise a few more dollars for noble Arkansas horse and dog breeders, a few (thousand) slot machines, plus roulette wheels and craps tables, wouldn't hurt.

The VFW and American Legion will march in, too, to plead for a lower tax, more gambling options and a loosening of restrictions on their games. Otherwise, they'll cry, how can they compete?

Before it's over, we'll look like most other states, awash in opportunities for the poor to plunk down sucker bets in return for some wishful dreaming. Lobbyist-fed legislators will be in high cotton.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Aid politics

    The still-unfolding catastrophe in Houston is, first, a human tragedy. But when politicians try to tell you that a time of enormous human tragedy is not a time to talk about politics, it likely means the politics are embarrassing to them.
    • Aug 31, 2017
  • Save the statues!

    The Democratic Party of Arkansas has called for relocation of Confederate monuments from public places, such as courthouse squares and the Capitol lawn, to history museums or private grounds.
    • Aug 24, 2017
  • Charter secret

    These are hard times for those who believe in traditional public schools, run by democratically elected representatives, open to all on equal terms.
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Viewed

  • Storm president

    It's undeniable that President Trump's public approval has improved since the moment Hurricane Harvey came ashore in Texas the last week of August; polls showed his popularity up by approximately 2 points.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • Can't afford to gut ACA

    The Affordable Care Act was passed into law with the promise that it would make insurance affordable. Because of bipartisan leadership in Arkansas, we continue to strive to achieve that goal. While rhetoric abounds, it is important to understand the Arkansas experience.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Bad health care bill, again

    • Its hard to tell what the GOP in Arkansas care about beyond making life worse…

    • on September 20, 2017
  • Re: Time for a coalition

    • I am very glad to see a lot of women running for government positions in…

    • on September 19, 2017
  • Re: Time for a coalition

    • Since Hillary's book has come out, the Hillary Bashers have starting ranting again. My thoughts:…

    • on September 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation