Smart talk, March 19 

The bingo racket


The legislature and Gov. Mike Beebe heard the pleas of so-called charity bingo operators. They are going to dramatically reduce taxes on the operations, from a penny to three-tenths-of-a-cent per bingo card and also remove the excise tax on bingo equipment. The bingo operators pleaded on the ground of helping charities. Baloney.

A state audit of more than 90 of the biggest operators last year showed that the bingo games produce a pittance for charity and a big tax cut is more likely to line pockets of bingo operators than help the needy.

The audited games took in $11.1 million from gamblers and then paid out about $7 million in winnings. Of the remaining $4.1 million, only $677,000 went to charity. (Remember that these games are supposed to be operated by free volunteer labor.) A good charity should spend about 80 percent of operating revenue on charity services. The bingo halls did barely 15 percent. And it's worse than it appears. Almost $400,000 of the supposed charity benefits actually went to “internal” charities — that is to the bingo halls themselves, generally civic and veterans groups. Total deregulation, which the bingo operators wanted, would have only increased the possibility that money could find its way to improper salary payments. Less regulation also would guarantee an incursion of private gambling enterprises masquerading as charities, a persistent problem in other states.


Let them go


Chopsocky star Chuck Norris, Mike Huckabee's main celebrity supporter in his race for president, drew wide attention last week for suggesting that Texas should secede from the United States and saying that he might run for president of the breakaway Republic of Texas. He later said he was joking about the president part, but not so much about the secession part, on account of the country's move away from the “Founders' vision.”

Sounds good to us. Could he take The Huckster with him? And build a wall in Texarkana to keep out illegal aliens from ROT?


Easy riding


Parade magazine recently published a list of “The Worst Roads in America,” based on interviews with truck drivers. Of the seven listings, none was in Arkansas, but one of the roads on the “worst” list — I-40 in Oklahoma — reminded us that I-40 in Arkansas used to be named to these things regularly. In fact, an Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department spokesman says, before about 2000, Arkansas was widely considered to have one of the worst Interstate systems in the country. But in 1999, voters approved a $575 million bond issue for Interstate rehabilitation. Work began in 2000 and continued for a little more than five years. In 2006, Overdrive magazine, a publication for truckers, named I-40 in Arkansas the “most improved” road in the country. It's still good, nothing like a Michigan highway. (One of Parade's “worst” listings was “All roads in Michigan.”)



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