Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Poorly Thought-Out Lottery Proposal Will Be On Ballot


Well, its official. Lt. Governor Bill Halter's proposal for a lottery will be on the ballot in November. He got the required petition signatures the same way he got elected- he bought them both.
On the ballot or not, this particular lottery proposal is still awful public policy. An informed populace would vote this down with extreme prejudice, unfortunately non-internet users have very few ways to really get informed in this state- the only state-wide newspaper would not recognize good public policy if it bit them in the press.

The measure constitutionally specifies that all profits must go to higher education, that is to say, things like higher secret bonuses for guys like UCA President Lu Hardin. Hey Brummett, I'm glad you caught on but remember, I was down on Lu Hardin (see these five posts) before being down on Lu Hardin was cool.

Since it all has to go to higher education, no money from the lottery could be used to cope with increased costs due to crime, incarceration, and social services that are known to be associated with an increase in gambling. Instead, money for those things would come from the wallets of the taxpayers. Whether you support the idea of a lottery or not, the wording on this one is too inflexible and thus poor public policy.

While the wording on how profits are to be spent is completely inflexible, when it comes to defining what types of gambling are to be included the proposal it is overly nebulous. There is no guarantee that this will be restricted to a once-a-week scratch the numbers type traditional lottery. It could easily include gambling forms that are continuous, instant, and more addicting.

Even if you are libertarian-leaning and see nothing wrong with consenting adults gambling, that is a separate issue from the idea of expanding the state by giving it a monopoly in the gambling business. That would make the state their own regulators. How often has that NOT gone bad? The government is already big enough, and there are already too few checks against its abuses. This state lottery proposal is the wrong way to legalize lotteries, even if you think that is a good idea.

The lamest argument I have heard yet is that we are "losing revenue" by not having a lottery. The same argument could be applied to dealing meth and prostitution. The government is "losing revenue" by not operating bordellos and crack houses! In the name of getting more money the government would thus run straight for the gutter.

Investing more in higher education is not going to do the great things for our economy that Halter says it will. The "more educated workforce" that we will be creating will be extremely mobile, and if the jobs are elsewhere they will leave the state to go get them. Thus, the state government investing more in higher education than there are jobs for graduates is simply a way of subsidizing other states at the expense of Arkansans. We must build the business climate first, then the jobs and education will follow. The only reason a graduate with a better job offer elsewhere would stay here is that it is a better environment to do things like raise children- and an influx of gambling will reduce that advantage.

I am begging my fellow citizens to at least be smarter than the editorial writers at the Democrat-Gazette and vote "no" on this flawed lottery proposal.

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