As I wrote yesterday, today at 2 p.m, the members of the House and Senate State Agencies Committees met to talk about repealing the enabling legislation that set up Arkansas’ state-run lottery. Despite no legislative action being taken (there weren’t enough lawmakers present), I thought the meeting went very well.
Sen. Sue Madison–the sponsor of the proposal to repeal the lottery enabling legislation–put together a great team of lottery experts and concerned citizen groups. Dale Charles, president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP, talked about how the state-run lottery is hurting minorities. He highlighted Jefferson County, which has a high concentration of minorities and is also one of the poorest counties in Arkansas. Mr. Charles pointed out that Jefferson came in second only to Pulaski County in lottery ticket sales last month.
We also heard from Les Bernal, executive director of the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation in Washington, D.C. Mr. Bernal was very eloquent and spoke with great authority on the subject of state-sponsored gambling. His organization seems to be doing great work in educating people about just how damaging lotteries are, especially when the government gets involved and promotes them.
I especially appreciated the presence of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families–a group that we are sometimes at odds with on the issues. A representative from Advocates spoke against the lottery and talked specifically about the economic impact it has on families. I also spoke on this topic and fielded questions from a few legislators.
It appears that many of the solutions provided to reign in the lottery will be considered by the legislature soon. This alone makes the meeting today a success in my opinion. The media presence is also something to mention; we had a great turnout! I’m pleased that more Arkansans are now going to hear about this meeting and, as a result, know more about the dangers of a state-run lottery.
An amusing side note to the event: Speaker of the House Robbie Wills was not present in the meeting. However, he did show up after it was over and take questions from the press. For someone who wasn’t there, I’m sure he had plenty to say about it all.
The lottery discussion continues tonight on channel 42 at 7 p.m. I will be interviewed by reporter Sonseeahray Tonsall.