On Wednesday the Arkansas Lottery Commission voted to approve “monitor games” despite objections from lawmakers.
According to testimony from the lottery director and members of the commission, these games will allow players to purchase lottery tickets and watch lottery results on flat-screen televisions in places lottery tickets are sold. Monitor game drawings would occur every four minutes, and games would be similar to keno or bingo.
Explained in the cold light of day, the image doesn’t sound too dangerous: People will watch lottery results on a television screen instead of scratching off a piece of paper. The truth is this opens the door for “lottery” gambling that looks and feels more like casino gambling, with people gathering to wager on games played out via video monitors. The fact that these games will run on a four-minute cycle means lottery play will be fast-paced and continuous–two ingredients that factor heavily into gambling addiction.
This means that very soon Arkansas’ bars, gas stations, or convenience stores could operate more like miniature casinos under the guise of the Arkansas Lottery. By designating a lounge or back room for playing the lottery, any business licensed to sell lottery tickets could set up video screens and terminals for playing these monitor games. In the case of bars and restaurants, patrons may be able to purchase lottery tickets and play variations of keno while drinking or dining. The games at this point will not be the full-fledged video lottery terminals you see in some states–which are interactive, with touch-screens that look and function more like slot machines–but these games are a step in that direction.
The legislators on the Lottery Oversight Committee seem to have a very firm grasp of what this could mean for Arkansas. At a meeting yesterday, the oversight committee members voted to recommend the Arkansas Lottery Commission not implement these monitor games. As near as we could tell, of the 12 lawmakers on the committee, 8 voted against the games.
In direct defiance of the legislators on that committee, the Arkansas Lottery Commission voted to move forward with the games anyway. They expect the monitor games to start rolling out sometime this summer.
The Arkansas Lottery Commission is an agent of the State of Arkansas. It was established by the Arkansas Legislature in 2009. When a state commission blatantly ignores the recommendations of the very lawmakers who established it, you know that commission is out of control. The Lottery Oversight Committee may not have any direct authority over the Lottery Commission, but the Arkansas Legislature does. If I were a lottery commissioner, I would pause to consider that before plugging in any monitor games.