In Parts 1, 2, and 3 of our series on repealing the Arkansas Lottery, we looked at how little lottery revenue is really going to scholarships; how much economic damage the lottery is causing; and how much social dysfunction the lottery is contributing to. Today, we’re going to end our series by looking at one of the most compelling reasons of all: The fact that it puts the State in the gambling business.
So what’s wrong with putting the State in the gambling business?
- First, it gives the State an unfair monopoly on an industry.
- Secondly, it puts the State in a position of preying on its citizens.
- And finally, it makes the State increasingly susceptible to corruption and outside influences.
When I say that the Arkansas Lottery gives the State an unfair monopoly on the gambling business, I don’t want that to be interpreted to mean that I support casinos run in a free market; I don’t. I believe the destructive elements found in a lottery are present everywhere gambling of any kind is—and that includes at the casinos in Hot Springs and West Memphis. However, people who claim to be “libertarian” on the whole state lottery issue need to realize that there’s nothing libertarian about this lottery. The State of Arkansas is running a gambling ring all its own, with no competition whatsoever in all but two cities in Arkansas. Monopolies and bureaucracy always create problems—after all, how many of us wish the cable company or the Revenue Office were easier to deal with? I believe they would be, if they had a competitor to deal with.
Second, having a lottery puts Arkansas in the position of preying on its citizens. The State of Arkansas is now encouraging behavior that they acknowledge is addictive and destructive. They’re enticing Arkansans to spend money on lottery tickets—counting on them to lose all along. Government is supposed to serve the People. It’s simply wrong for any government to prey on its citizens like that.
Finally, it makes the State susceptible to corruption and outside influences. When I went to the public hearing on lottery ticket vending machines, I saw representatives from the gambling industry—in particular Intralot, who had sold Arkansas the machines—sitting in the back of the room. Based on what I heard them saying to people present at the hearing, I got the distinct impression they had been lobbying the Lottery Commission.
Intralot is based in Greece; their business revolves around lotteries and manufacturing gambling machines. They aren’t an Arkansas-based company, and they don’t have Arkansas’ interests in mind—they’re primary concern is Intralot.
When companies like these send lobbyists to Little Rock, they send with them all the wealth and influence of the gambling industry. It’s hard to fight that much money. It may sound like a bad joke, but mixing politicians with gambling and a big pile of money seems like nothing more than a recipe for corruption to me.
There’s simply no reason Arkansas has business in the gambling business. We need to abolish the state lottery right away.