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A Bad Bet.

TWO COVER STORIES OF ARkansas Business this week offer a look at Arkansas Casino Corp. and the proposed constitutional amendment that represents its vision for big-time gambling to the state.

Despite past rejections and other failed efforts to get Arkansans to adopt gambling, the issue keeps coming up. With legalized gambling now a $50 billion-a-year industry in the U.S., there's a lot of money to be made.

And if Amendment 5 is approved, Arkansas Casino Corp. would have carte blanc to rip off people like nothing this state has ever seen before.

We're not opposed to some of the benefits the amendment's backers are trying to sell to voters -- reduction or elimination of the state sales tax on groceries; college scholarships for all Arkansas high school graduates; and thousands of jobs. But there are so many things wrong with this absurd amendment that it's hard to know what to condemn first or most strenuously.

This amendment would write one for-profit corporation into our state Constitution. It won't just be a regulated monopoly; it will be a constitutionally protected monopoly.

This amendment will allow Arkansas Casino Corp., and no one else, to set up casinos in Pulaski, Garland, Miller, Sebastian, Crittenden and Boone counties without any kind of state oversight. The state Legislature would be prohibited from changing any laws regarding casino gambling.

So who would regulate the casinos? You guessed it. The ones raking in the big profits off gambling. Who in his right mind would consent to that?

Those items alone would be enough to oppose the amendment, which also would clear that way for a state lottery and charitable bingo. But there's more.

The cover articles reveal .the spotty background of the company that would control the casinos. We urge you to read them and take a close look at Arkansas Casino Corp., the people involved in it, and its nagging past. We think you'll see why we're adamantly opposed to granting a monopoly to this unregulated company.

Even if we supported gambling in general, which we don't, we would still be opposed to the lunacy of Amendment 5. Here's some more reasons:

* The state casino tax of 15 percent is on net gaming revenue, less payouts and money spent to purchase annuities. But the amendment doesn't limit the amount of money that can be sheltered by taxation by such annuities. Handy, no?

* These casinos would not be subject to property tax, but they sure would be making use of the kind of services and infrastructure that property taxes pay for.

* Although an Arkansas Gaming Commission would be setup, its job would be to regulate lottery and bingo -- not the casinos. It could only audit the casino books to make sure the state is getting what it's-due.

* Last but certainly not least, there are no provisions for background checks on the people running or working at the casinos. It's rather naive to think that an industry long noted for its mob connections could regulate itself, even with former lawmen on the board of directors. After all, directors change but constitutional amendments are permanent.

While we still hope the Arkansas Supreme Court throws this mess off the ballot, we pray that Arkansans will see through it all and soundly reject it at the polls.
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Title Annotation:proposed gambling law in Arkansas
Comment:A Bad Bet.(proposed gambling law in Arkansas)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 9, 2000
Previous Article:Not For Sale.
Next Article:LETTERS.

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