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Arkansas Divided on Gambling Measure

23 October 2000

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – Oct. 23, 2000 – As reported by The Associated Press: " Bible-belt Arkansas tolerates its horse racing and dog track. Harder to swallow for some is a Nov. 7 ballot measure to bring in casinos and a state lottery, though they would create thousands of jobs, end the grocery tax and send any high school graduate to college.

"…Amendment 5 would establish a state lottery, allow charity bingo and permit casinos in the state capital, Little Rock, the resort city of Hot Springs and four counties next to casino or lottery states.

"The money would replace the grocery tax, provide tuition to state college and technical schools for any Arkansas high school graduate and expand pre-school and tutoring in elementary schools.

"A poll late last month by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found 51 percent of likely voters opposed the measure, with 37 percent in favor and 12 percent undecided. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points…"

"Four years ago, Arkansas voters rejected casinos, by 61 percent. South Carolina lawmakers and voters struggled for years with video gambling before the state Supreme Court threw it out.

"…Opposition starts with Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister. Huckabee says government "becomes a pimp" when it resorts to state lotteries to sell wagers to fill its treasury. "…`Even for people who would support gambling, this particular proposal is a sucker's bet,' Huckabee told The Associated Press. `How dumb do they think we are?'

"Arkansas Casino Corp., a group of investors, sponsored the current measure.

"The company hasn't released an estimate of potential state revenues. But the promise of construction work and 15,000 new casino jobs, as well as college money, won backing from the state's biggest union.

"…Leading the anti-casino, anti-lottery forces is the church-based Arkansas Committee for Ethics Policy, which kept casino measures off the ballot in 1990 and 1994.

"…Measure supporters are embattled on another front.

"Last week, two casino company board members from Dallas were charged with state securities violations that included allegedly selling unregistered casino stock without a license. They allegedly sold at least $1,000 stock to each of more than 300 people.

"Bobby May, a former county sheriff who is now president of Arkansas Casino Corp. accused the prosecutor of filing the charges to kill the casino measure. "We are a good decent company with the best of intentions," May, a former Lee County sheriff from 1975-1992, said in denying the charges against the Texas men. "We're not shady, sleazy characters. We're good Arkansans.'…"

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