Thursday, April 24, 2008

State Lottery: Odds Look Good for Bad Policy

A graphic from the Family Council's Action Center Website. The group opposes the lottery proposed by Lt. Governor Bill Halter
Groups who want to keep government-sponsored gambling out of Arkansas held a press conference yesterday, covered here.

Lt. Governor Bill Halter has pushed for an amendment to the state constitution to permit lotteries. There has been some concern that the amendment he proposes is not written tightly enough to limit it to the once-a-week format which most people think of when the word "lottery" is used. A loosely written amendment could open the door for a plethora of gambling activities.

While there is concern about too much flexibility in the wording vis-a-vi what kind of gambling is permitted, there is also concern that the constitutional amendment has too little flexibility as to how the money raised is to be spent- it all goes back into the lottery or to higher education. This could result in a tax increase for the rest of us if the lottery increases gambling addiction and all the child welfare, criminal, and social service expenses that go with it. According to the amendment, no funds from the lottery can be used to "clean up the mess" that having an increase in gambling usually creates. Funds for clean up would have to come from General Revenues.

The state legislature refused to forward Halter's proposal to the ballot. Halter has teamed with a wealthy resident of Little Rock to raise $300,000 in order to get the proposal on the ballot. They need 78,000 valid signatures, which means they should collect 100,000 at a bare minimum to avoid scrutiny. If they get the required signatures, the chances look good. Polls currently show 64% of Arkansans currently favor a lottery. Given that our dominant state print media can be counted on to cheer every expansion of government that a liberal Democrat like Halter proposes, getting accurate information out concerning the deleterious unintended consequences of this poorly-conceived ballot measure will be difficult.

Regardless of how you feel about whether or not gambling should be legal, friends of liberty everywhere should be opposed to the idea of growing government by putting government in the gambling business. Especially granting government a monopoly in a business along with a guarantee that the government business created will not have to divert any of its funds to clean up whatever social mess its activities create. Those funds will instead be diverted from your pockets.

Some question the idea that a lottery leads to serious gambling addiction. Putting aside the fact that the amendment is not tightly worded enough to prevent more types of gambling than we would normally consider a lottery, here are some links to disabuse folks of that fallacy......


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