Favorite

Faith and fortune intersect with drinking and gambling in Arkansas 

Voters motivated by religious beliefs are invariably sincere. But it doesn't mean they aren't useful foils.

A couple of good examples concern drinking and gambling.

Despite legislators' frequent invocation of the religiosity of Arkansans, a resounding majority approved a state lottery. Arkansas was late to the party, one of the reasons it topped out in sales even sooner than expected.

This has been a convenient whipping boy for the church lobby, led by the likes of that gay hate group, the Family Council. They've been busy stoking up opposition to lottery ideas to reinvigorate sales, such as by adding quick-play options, akin to keno.

This fight is being waged in other states. Bipartisan legislation was recently passed in Minnesota to ban online gambling options. The governor vetoed the bill. The legislature may have been worried less about state predation than preventing new competition for existing gambling venues.

It's an interesting coincidence that the duopoly casinos in Arkansas — at Southland in West Memphis and Oaklawn in Hot Springs — recently commissioned a study to praise their economic contribution to the state while the lottery fights a battle with legislators to expand.

It's also interesting that Arkansas legislators are nearly apoplectic about some electronic lottery games but legislation to allow Internet gambling at the racinos passed with little protest. It's also unsurprising. The tracks have used powerful lobbying and legal sophistry (slot machines are not slot machines but electronic games of skill) to enhance profits.

But casinos, too, have to worry about overexposure. Harrah's recently quit Tunica, Miss. You CAN have too much of a good thing. Two casinos in Arkansas is enough, the owners think. No need for the Arkansas Lottery to set up little mini-casinos in Arkansas shops and bars.

You see similar themes at work when it comes to alcohol. About half the counties in Arkansas ban retail sale of alcohol, even a six-pack of Milwaukee's Best. A Bible-thumping legislator also passed legislation to make it devilishly hard to vote a dry county wet — a high petition signature requirement. But enough money and determination can get it done. Wet elections have succeeded in counties ranging from Clark to Benton. A group led by a former Walmart executive and the head of the retail grocers association is currently leading a drive to take some rich targets wet — Saline, Faulkner and Craighead. All three counties are damp, with "private clubs" galore selling drinks.

The usual suspects are miffed. Sen. Jason Rapert of Conway, a Baptist preacher on the side, was outraged that alcohol petitioning had occurred in Faulkner County without consulting him.

He tried to discourage petitioning along about the time he got $4,000 in campaign contributions from Bruce Hawkins' lobbying firm and its PAC, financed in part by his lobbying client, the Conway County Legal Beverage Association. That's the Conway County booze and beer sellers. They profit immensely from bordering dry Faulkner. A lobbyist for Hawkins is an officer of a campaign formed to fight legal sales in Faulkner.

The county line liquor stores across Arkansas are going to be busy trying to protect their multimillion-dollar oases. The grocery retailers are joining a campaign for a constitutional amendment to allow sale of alcohol in all of Arkansas's counties. I like its chances, given that the majority of Arkansans live in wet counties already.

The churchmen and women will be prominent in opposition. But the political might and money will come from booze peddlers attempting to protect their turf and the politicians, like Rapert, that they support.

Keep the faith. But follow the money.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Tax-cut deficits OK. Help for Puerto Rico? Not for French HIll and them

    Vox points out the towering hypocrisy in the vote by 69 Republican members of the U.S. House, including Rep. French Hill of Little Rock, against a disaster aid package for Puerto Rico and other parts of the U.S.
    • Oct 17, 2017
  • Governor to talk about health care, highway funding

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson will entertain media questions at a 9:30 a.m. session today that is said to cover health care and highway funding. Questions need to be asked about impact on people, not just the state budget, from recent insurance premium increeases and Donald Trump's cut of federal subsidies.
    • Oct 17, 2017
  • State tallies 323 applications to grow or sell medical marijuana

    The state Department of Finance and Administration Department released this evening a tally of total applications to either cultivate (95) or dispense (228) marijuana under the new medical marijuana law.
    • Oct 16, 2017
  • More »

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

  • Pork barrel III

    Mike Wilson, the Jacksonville lawyer and former state representative, for the third time last week won a victory for the Arkansas Constitution and taxpayers and set back pork barreling.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • Fishy lawmaking

    Last week, the legislature decided not to press a fight that could have further upended a balance of power in Arkansas already tilted too far in favor of the legislative branch.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • LR Central at 70

    The city of Little Rock has finished its "Reflections on Progress" observance of the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School and the people most affected managed to put well-placed asterisks on the notion that this was a story all about racial progress.
    • Sep 28, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

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 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Trust and obey

    • A very timely and beautifully written piece. Indeed, the whole frightening paradigm is about preserving…

    • on October 15, 2017
  • Re: Trust and obey

    • Anyone else ponder how many times donald trump, playboy for five-decades, may have paid for/insisted…

    • on October 14, 2017
  • Re: Conspiracy theories

    • Here's the business end of the Politifact article cited above by Vanessa: "Newsweek's claim is…

    • on October 14, 2017
 

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