LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – The head of Arkansas’ lottery on Friday said he opposes a measure a group is trying to get on the ballot that would allow thousands of coin-operated “amusement machines” around the state to raise money for the lottery program.
Lottery Director Bishop Woosley announced his opposition with the leaders of a group formed to campaign against the constitutional amendment vying for a spot on Arkansas’ ballot. Supporters of the proposal have until July 3 to gather nearly 90,000 signatures from registered voters to qualify for the November election.
The amendment would require the lottery to issue 50 licenses to own and lease the machines that would award non-cash prizes such as lottery tickets or vouchers for merchandise valued at less than $5. Each licensee would be allowed to operate up to 300 machines. Twenty percent of net receipts from the machines would go toward the state’s lottery.
But Woosley said the machines would ultimately result in a loss to the state, with the lottery facing additional costs for licensing and oversight. He also criticized the measure for prohibiting any local limits on the machines.
“This will ultimately result in diminished local control, increased instances of problem gambling, increased gaming competition and ultimately less money for Arkansas students,” Woosley said. Arkansas voters approved the lottery in 2008 to raise money for college scholarships.
Arcade Arkansas, the group behind the expanded gambling proposal, has raised more than $360,000 and spent nearly $359,000 on its campaign. A spokesman for the group said Woosley was entitled to his opinion, but believed opponents were mischaracterizing the proposal, noting it wouldn’t allow cash prizes.
“The idea that this is going to be drawing people in for these hugely lucrative cash payouts is just incorrect,” Spokesman Jason Cline said.
The measure is vying for the ballot months after Arkansas implemented a voter-approved amendment legalizing casinos in four counties. Casinos have opened at a West Memphis dog track, a Hot Springs horse track and another location in Pine Bluff under the amendment.
Protect Arkansas Communities, the group launched to oppose the proposed amendment, hasn’t received any money yet from the casinos but has reached out to them, campaign consultant Robert McLarty told reporters.
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