Arkansas Lottery Restrictions Advance, Headed For Floor Vote

Jul 1, 2014

State Senator David Johnson (D-Little Rock)
Credit Thomas Saccente / KUAR

A proposal prohibiting the state lottery from expanding into video monitor games advanced another step Tuesday morning. The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the bill without any dissenting votes. The measure will be taken up for a full Senate vote Tuesday afternoon. The House advanced an identical version Monday.

Democratic Senator David Johnson of Little Rock said even with the limit on lottery games expected to pass this special session exploring new revenue options for declining scholarship amounts will be re-visited.

“The lottery’s still new enough and fresh enough that it’s still evolving, revenue is changing. So, I think once the regular session happens there will still be many things with the lottery under consideration,” said Johnson.

The temporary prohibition would expire in March of 2015 when the legislature next meets. A permanent ban was originally considered after the Lottery Commission planned to roll out the monitor-based games in the fall despite objections by an oversight committee. Some legislators argue the expansion into games such as keno goes beyond what was originally authorized when voters approved the scholarship lottery in 2008. Lottery Director Bishop Woosley said the new style of games was anticipated at the time.

“Lottery games were understood by the people. At that point I think 10 states played keno. We’ve got a difference of opinion as to whether or not that was something that was originally contemplated. We believe it was, there are some that don’t. That’ll be part of the discussion we have over the next eight months,” said Woosley.

Senator Johnson offered his perception on media commentary that Oaklawn and Southland’s casino-style race tracks are against lottery expansion because it might impact their business.

“Whatever’s taking place behind the scenes…That may be an issue behind the scenes, I don’t know. I think it’s one of several issues on this bill and I don’t think it’s the only issue,” said Johnson.

Arkansas Family Council Director Jerry Cox was also in attendance at the committee meeting that took place in the Old Supreme Court in the Capitol.  Family Council has opposed the lottery since its inception. Cox argues the lottery is morally destructive and the expansion into video monitor games with drawings every four minutes is perilously addictive.