Favorite

The numbers racket 

With plenty of money at his disposal — and if Arkansas backers don't come up with enough you can bet the lottery industry will — Lt. Gov. Bill Halter seems likely to succeed at putting a state lottery on the 2008 ballot.

Polls have shown consistently that Arkansas voters would approve a state lottery, so long as it is unencumbered by expansion of other forms of gambling, such as casinos.

Halter's proposal would merely legalize a state lottery and provide that proceeds — after payouts to winners and overhead — would go to college scholarships (probably in disproportionate number to whites and higher-income people).

Ah, but there's a rub. What form will that lottery take? Will it be a weekly drawing of Ping Pong balls? Will it include the scratch-off cards sold in most other states? Or will it be more sophisticated — and more addictive — than that?

The New York Times has been writing extensively about the lottery industry. Some of the reporting has been about the powerful influence of the major suppliers of lottery equipment and consulting services. With so much money in play, corruption is an inevitable byproduct.

Some reporting has dealt with the maturing of the lottery. States can rarely count on exponential growth in revenue. And people tend to underestimate the revenue. It typically provides only a tiny fraction of a state's educational needs, even as it convinces some voters that other taxes are unnecessary thanks to imagined gambling riches.

Recently, the Times focused on Rebecca Paul Hargrove, who's helped establish lotteries in several states, most recently Tennessee. Her story is a marketing story. She has worked to make the lottery as ubiquitous as candy bars at retail outlets.

Her example provides support for my fear that a state lottery will mean a great deal more gambling than many people believe. As Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has noted in approving the form of the lottery proposal for the ballot, ending the constitutional prohibition on lotteries opens the door to just about any form of state-sponsored gambling. Ask Halter about this and he'll say the types of games will be a matter for the legislature to decide. Yes, but it's a factor voters should consider when they decide whether to approve an enterprise subject to legislative finagling.

Opponents of lotteries say the products pushed by Hargrove have become increasingly addictive, even as they've won increasing acceptance.

In Tennessee, the Times reported, Hargrove rapidly introduced 29 instant-ticket games and two on-line games. Online games?

She helped devise something called Fantasy 5, an online in-state pari-mutuel game with better odds than multistate Powerball and large jackpots. She also added “Hot Trax Champions,” a game installed in bars that uses real video of NASCAR drivers (sounds a bit like Oaklawn's Instant Racing). While many lottery games have daily or twice-daily drawings, the Times said, Hot Trax has drawings every five minutes for almost 20 hours a day. You could hardly play keno any faster in Vegas. Which means you can lose just as fast in the comfort of your Arkansas home as you can lose in a Vegas casino.

In Hargrove's world, state lotteries must always invent new ways to lure gamblers to keep revenue growing. There is something ironic in a government mission to support education through millions in chump bets. In case you didn't know: overall, the house always wins.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Fritz Brantley

  • The incredible shrinking Huckabee

    Plus: COPS!
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • The Week That Was, Dec. 20

    The UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS. After our deadline last week, they landed a football coach, the collegiately successful — but personality-challenged — Bobby Petrino. Petrino fled a losing record with the Atlanta Falcons, who hurled insults at him in his wake.
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • No long hair in Eureka

    On basketball court.
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015
  • 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

Most Shared

  • Former state board of education chair Sam Ledbetter weighs in on Little Rock millage vote

    Ledbetter, the former state Board of Education chair who cast the decisive vote in 2015 to take over the LRSD, writes that Education Commissioner Johnny Key "has shown time and again that he is out of touch with our community and the needs of the district." However, Ledbetter supports the May 9 vote as a positive for the district's students and staff.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • The end of democracy in LR

    The state Board of Education was scheduled to talk this week about the Little Rock School District, under state control for two years because six of its 48 schools failed to meet an arbitrary pass rate on a standardized test.
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Internet looting continues

    The 2017 legislative session concluded without passage of a bill to encourage internet merchants to collect and remit taxes on sales in Arkansas, though internet giant Amazon has begun doing so voluntarily.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Event Calendar

« »

April

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

  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.
  • Forget the hairdo

    As the 2018 races begin to heat up, we see more and more women running for office. And as more women run, we will see more of the seemingly endless critiques of their appearances.
  • Intracity tourism

    The issues that tug at my heartstrings are neighborhood stigma and neighborhood segregation, which are so prevalent in Little Rock. In my opinion, the solution to those problems is "intracity tourism."
  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: O'Reilly's fall

    • O'Reilly should run for president. He's already cleared one major hurdle by proving he's a…

    • on April 27, 2017
  • Re: Intracity tourism

    • I love being a tourist in my own backyard. One of the advantages of being…

    • on April 27, 2017
  • Re: Art bull

    • Well, when the Bull was first put up there, it meant one thing, and that…

    • on April 24, 2017
 

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