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Djones 
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Re: “Evangelicals making tracks in Hot Springs

It has been implied because I’m a Christian and a Pastor that I and others like me cannot possibly function as a reasonable member of the American society. I was unavailable for comment during the development of this article. As a consequence the mission statement of the Watchmen of Garland County has been misquoted. So here it is: To watch over the moral, social, political and ethical affairs of Garland County. To sound the alarm for our citizenry when illegal, immoral, or unjust activities occur. To take a proactive posture when individuals or organizations threaten the moral fabric and the Traditional Family Values of our community. To act within Biblical, Moral, Ethical and Legal guidelines so as not to bring reproach upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our mandate is taken from Ezekiel 33. We are an organization centered on informing the public of issues and then letting them make their own decisions. Because we are Christian based with representatives from 70 churches in Garland County, e have been compared to the Taliban. That is the most ludicrous thing I’ve heard in a while. It would be like me saying that anyone who opposes basic Biblical truth is a follower of Nero. (He burned Christians to light the streets of Rome). Ironically organizations like the Watchmen, GGGG and the TEA Party wouldn’t need to exist if we could depend on the media to report fair and accurately the concerns of the people. For instance to the Sentinel Record, because I asked the Hot Springs Board of Directors to request the state to do an interim study of the impact Act 1151 has had on Hot Springs and Garland County, I was depicted as an “Anti gambling proponent seeking to close down Oaklawn”. Because I’m a Christian and a Pastor does that disqualify me from asking the questions everyone should be asking? You tell me if what I bring into question is religiously motivated or civic minded.

Below is my request to the HSBD that was prevented from being voted on by the HSBD and refused print by the Sentinel Record of HS

I believe a contributing factor to our city and county financial problems can be attributed to the promise of a big payday that has never showed up. Perhaps the city has allowed themselves some fiscal liberty because they had been promised an infusion of money, and when it came in everything would balance out. The infusion of money I am referring to is the direct tax from the Electronic Games of Skill from Oaklawn Jockey Club.

At the September 6, 2005 meeting of the Hot Springs City Council the citizens of Hot Springs were lead to believe that would never experience the hardship that others would because of this new tax revenue brought in by the direct tax. In that meeting under Proposed Ordinance No. O-05-75 this is a statement made by Mr. Cella’s chief of operations at Oaklawn Jockey Club “ If this measure passes, there will be a direct tax on wagering at Oaklawn Park. The two companies they engaged (one from Boston and one from Chicago) said that the total new tax revenues to the County will be approximately $700,000. The total new tax revenues to the City will be $2 million to $2½ million”.

In an article written by Mark Gregory of the Sentinel Record on September 7, 2005 he quotes then City Manager Kent Myers who said ”….the city would receive direct revenues of 1.5 percent of the net wagering revenues from the electronic games. Myers said some projections show the city would probably generate from $1.5 to $2.5 million per year from that percentage.”

In Addition: in a letter sent by former Mayor Bush to city employee’s urging them to support the proposal he states; “the Hot Springs/Oaklawn Community Benefits Plan offers, for the first time, the opportunity for the city to collect direct tax revenues from gaming income at Oaklawn Park. In fact the city will receive an estimated $2.3 million per year in new annual revenues.

Then in a speech given at the Oaklawn Rotary Club on October 12, 2005 a listener recorded Mr. Cella’s Operations manager stating:”adding this service will add 1,000 jobs. And the wages earned we figure, will give the community $30 million. The increase in visitors will bring in about $80 million. The total direct tax to the city will be about $2.5 million.

So where are we 5 years later? The EGS Direct tax has failed to break the $1 million dollar mark for the combind 4 years of full operation.

I know the argument could be made that it takes time to build up to these bench marks. But not one time was it mentioned, that eventually, or in the near future the direct tax would produce 1.5 to 2.5 million a year. At their current rate of growth it will be after 2021 before the direct tax on the Electronic Games will break the $2 million mark. And while it is taking time to build up to this bench mark I believe the effects of the additional gambling were felt almost immediately. In the last couple of years the cry has gotten louder for a new jail. Last year Hot Springs was ranked number 1 in America for violent crime in cities of our size. Home invasion and property theft is on the rise. Is this a result of additional gambling? I don’t know. That is why we would like to ask the city to request an interim study.

During the 2005 “Benefit Plan” campaign it was stated that the additional Gaming would bring in out of state tourism.
In a 6 month study I did recently I found evidence to the contrary. On Oaklawns website they have a list of winners from the Electronic Games by city of origin. (City of origin has been removed since my address to the HSBD). During the part of the peak vacation season for Hot Springs July 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010 I discovered most of the winners came from nearby communities, which would indicates so did most of the losers. Of 197 winners 8 were from out of state. 55 were from Hot Springs And an additional 66 were from within a 40 mile radius of Oaklawn. In a recent study that I read it stated that the odds of winning in a lock and role electronic game are 1 out of 50 players. So if we use the same logic then of the 55 Hot Springs winners we could conclude that there were 2750 city residence that lost money. The significants here is that the gambling money becomes taxable at the terminal. Some converts in to payroll and supplies but most goes out of state. If these statistics are true then that means 2750 Hot Springs Citizens had less to spend on gas for their cars, dinning out, shopping, groceries and entertainment therefore reducing repetitive taxable dollars in the city.

To put this in prospective, at the September 6, 2005 HSBD’s meeting Hot Springs was told if we would allow casino style gambling. Hot Springs would gain between 1.5 and 2 ½ million dollars in direct tax. Lets split the difference and look at $2 million per year. That would mean during the 4 years of full operation HS would have received $8 million by the end of 2010. If we subtract what HS actually received from 2007-2010 $960,164.26 That leaves a short fall of $7,039,895.80. What I find very interesting is that in Resolution R-11-22 that was brought before the HSBD in March 2011 the board approved the carry over of budgeted but unfilled contracts from previous years totaling $7,256,281.96

That is only $216,446.16. This may be coincidental, but to me it appears as if previous budget committees expect to receive $2 million a year as well.

I’m not asking anyone to side with me on a moral issue concerning gambling, as I have been portrayed in the media. It is not my intent to close down a 100 year old business in Hot Springs. It is simply to discover if the people of Hot Springs and Garland County are receiving the what they have been promised. And then how is the rest of the state effected by Oaklawns increased revenue generator.

Here are the item I am asking to be considered in this study, judge for yourself if it has any religious motive other that trying to be a good steward and responsible citizen.

1.) To learn the Demographic & socio-economic level of EGS players
2.) To Review of Arkansas Welfare Debit Card transactions/withdrawls to include transactions in both Oaklawn Jockey Club, and Southland Greyhound Park as well as those transactions within a ten mile radius of both venues.
3.) Identify and review economic development that has resulted directly or indirectly from the passage of Act 1151: Job creation, Tourism- Visitor Spending, Agribusiness- Arkansas Breeders, New Construction- Housing & Commercial, Oaklawn Foundation for the Future of Hot Springs, (Scholarships, Center on Aging- Garland County)
4.) A comprehensive review of the approval process of new games of skill in the state.


Pastor Doug Jones
Watchmen of Garland County

1 like, 5 dislikes
Posted by Djones on 05/18/2011 at 2:46 PM

 

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