Well, the move to expand gambling in Arkansas is under way — yet again.
Las Vegas-style table games, slots and sports betting are just getting started at Oaklawn and Southland race tracks and at the new casino in Pine Bluff, with another on the way in Pope County. These venues were approved by voters in November of 2018.
Now, supporters of video gambling are gathering signatures to allow machines in retail locations around the state.
A group called Arcade Arkansas wants to put an initiative on the November ballot that would authorize coin-operated machines — supposedly games of skill — to offer points that could be redeemed for merchandise worth up to $5.
Doesn't sound all that bad, does it? Why, it's sort of like what you find at a Chuck-E-Cheese or Dave and Busters.
But wait. There's more.
While a player couldn't trade the points for cash or booze or cigarettes, they can be used for lottery tickets. And, for the lucky, lottery tickets could be worth cold, hard cash.
The bill would allow 50 licenses with each licensee allowed to distribute 300 machines. So operators could flood the state with a total of 15,000 machines. The proposal would tax the machines at 20 percent dedicated to the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, which would regulate the enterprise.
But don't let that fool you. The state lottery isn't behind this. In fact the lottery director opposes it.
No, this is the brainchild of Arcade Arkansas, which the Arkansas Times reports is funded largely by amusement and vending machine businesses. No doubt they see a lot of profit potential in the Natural State.
There is growing opposition to the proposal — and, of course, a lot of that comes from existing casinos, which fear these machines could cut into their bottom line. So on that level it's all about who gets your gambling dollars.
We have and continue to oppose expansion of gambling in Arkansas. Especially putting machines like this in stores across the state. While one might make a case that a few casinos might draw tourist dollars, placing temptation on every corner only takes money out of Arkansans' pockets. Often that money comes from those who can least afford it.
If you are approached to sign one of these petition, think carefully before you do.