It never fails; Every time I find myself North of the Arkansas border on a Sunday buying the ever-important “Sunday beer” from Macadoodles I pick up a few lottery tickets when I’m checking out. Why not? Maybe I’ll hit the big time. Odds are I just padded some other lucky soul’s pocket and I won’t get any of my money back but, I have a good time checking the numbers and imagining what I’d do were I to hit the jackpot. For me, it’s all good fun.
Once again, an initiative to create an Arkansas state lottery is in the works. This time the initiative is being spearheaded by none other than the state’s #2 official, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. Halter, using his significant political weight, is pushing the creation of a state lottery as a way for the state to help fund college scholarships which would be awarded to students at two and four year colleges or vocational schools. According to Halter, the lottery is simply a “funding mechanism” to be used to educate more Arkansans which will lead to a better-trained and more effective workforce in the state. In addition, Halter estimates that a state lottery would bring in $100 million annually, all of which would be earmarked and used towards funding the scholarships and teacher bonuses. Not a small sum of money. He points out that many Arkansans are currently playing the lottery; they’re just driving across the state line to buy tickets from our neighboring states, thus funding other states educational programs.
Efforts in the past (1996 & 2000) to create a state lottery have made it onto the ballot but failed to pass the general vote. The largest difference between the previous two proposals and the current one is the removal of anything regarding casinos. But will removing casinos from the proposal be enough to sway the general public? Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, hopes not. In an essay on gambling, Page wrote that “The lottery can be described as the most insidious form of gambling.” I don’t know about you, but it sounds like he’s not a fan. I’m guessing he’s never won at his church’s bingo night and he’s just bitter. Those blue-haired ladies are awfully bingo savvy, you know.
As always, the religious right (which, in Arkansas, translates to “Southern Baptists”) are at the forefront of the battle against gambling. They claim that the lottery prays on the poor and the uneducated, taking more of what little money they had to begin with. I find it interesting that these folks only seem to care about the poor when it suits their interests. Aren’t these the same folks that could care less about funding welfare, medicaid and universal healthcare? But I digress…
Anyway, there are lots of arguments, both pro and con, and on both sides of the argument, for creating an Arkansas state lottery. As expected, religious groups, especially here in the bible belt, are opposed to any form of legalized gambling while the rest of us could either care less or simply wouldn’t mind being able to pick up a lotto ticket or two when they gas up their car.
The question is: Will this year’s proposal make it to the ballot? And, if so, will the good people of Arkansas vote in favor or against? Traditionally, and especially in the past, I’d say “No,” it won’t pass general election. However, with the large amount of interest from young, more liberal voters this Presidential election season, I’d say that it stands a very good chance of becoming a reality. But who knows for sure?
So, what do you think about creating a state lottery? And while we’re at it, why not start selling beer on Sunday? That drive to Macadoodles sucks.