Police Raid Illegal Gambling Operations in Central Arkansas

Earlier this week we learned that Jacksonville law enforcement raided illegal gambling operations at several gas stations and businesses.

Police reportedly executed search warrants and confiscated illegal gambling machines at:

  • Bucks Country Store
  • Citgo Flash Market
  • Citgo T-Ricks
  • Feeze Kutz
  • Han’s Citgo
  • Heards and Q Tee’s
  • Hi-Life Market
  • OK Mart / Valero
  • Roadrunner Dist.
  • Victory Express
  • 501 Vapes

With the exception of the state lottery and the casinos in Hot Springs, West Memphis, and Pine Bluff, Arkansas law generally prohibits gambling.

This isn’t the first time illegal gambling machines have cropped up in Arkansas.

In 2017 authorities in Jefferson County reportedly raided illegal gambling houses in Pine Bluff, and a judge in St. Francis County ruled against illegal gambling machines operated by the company Arkansas Amusements.

Typically these gambling machines are placed in gas stations, liquor stores, or old store fronts.

Some look and operate a lot like slot machines while others appear more like arcade games that let players gamble for money or prizes.

A proposed ballot measure would legalize games like these under the auspices of the Arkansas Lottery. If passed, gambling machines could be installed legally in gas stations, convenience stores, and other businesses as part of the state lottery — meaning many businesses would be able to operate mini-casinos in communities throughout Arkansas.

Gambling is a blight on the community. It is linked to bankruptcy, divorce, substance abuse, domestic violence, and suicide.

If you suspect an illegal gambling house is operating in your community, please notify your local authorities. Then call us at (501) 375-7000.

Pope County Quorum Court Caves to Casinos

This week the Pope County Quorum Court voted to repeal a local ordinance that requires voter approval before a casino can be built in the county.

Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution passed in 2018 authorizes casinos in Jefferson County and Pope County, and it converts the racetracks in Garland and Crittenden counties into full-fledged casinos.

Last November voters in Pope County soundly rejected the casino amendment and overwhelmingly supported a local ordinance that requires county officials to let voters decide first whether or not to authorize a casino in the county.

Earlier this year the quorum court endorsed a casino proposal from the Cherokee Nation without first putting the matter to the voters. That decision prompted a lawsuit from citizens in Pope County.

The quorum court apparently voted to repeal the ordinance this week in an effort to undercut that lawsuit.

The day after the quorum court voted to repeal the ordinance, a circuit judge declared the ordinance unconstitutional, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Under normal circumstances, the judge’s bad ruling on the ordinance could be appealed to a higher court. Since the quorum court voted to repeal the ordinance, there’s really no point in asking a higher court to overturn the judge’s ruling.

The quorum court’s decision paves the way for a casino corporation from out of state to open a casino in Russellville.

That’s clearly not what voters want, based on last November’s election, and it’s going to hurt the community.

Meanwhile the Quapaw Tribe is operating slot machines at its “casino annex” in Pine Bluff, and a group is working to legalize casino-style games under Arkansas’ state lottery.

Casino gambling is linked to homelessness, domestic violence, divorce, and bankruptcy. It’s a blight on the community.

Arkansas already has enough problems from gambling. We don’t need any more.

Evidence the Arkansas Lottery May Prey On the Vulnerable, Desperate

Yesterday we wrote about how the Arkansas Lottery continues to give college scholarships a pathetic amount of funding despite taking in tens of millions of dollars every month.

Today the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette notes that the Lottery paid less to scholarships in September of this year than in September of last year despite making more money this year.

The newspaper reports,

While the scratch-off ticket revenue in September increased from $28.3 million a year ago to $30.3 million, draw-game revenue dipped from $6.7 million a year ago to $5.7 million, according to the report. . . .

Draw games include Powerball, Mega Millions, Natural State Jackpot, Cash 3, Cash 4, Lucky for Life and Fast Play.

Lottery Director Bishop Woosley said Thursday, “Our instant sales continue to be strong, which is a good sign for the overall health of the lottery.”

Instant tickets also are called scratch-offs.

As the article points out, the Arkansas Lottery sells a lot of instant tickets — a.k.a. scratch-off tickets. That isn’t anything to celebrate. It actually indicates the Arkansas Lottery may be preying on the poor and vulnerable. Here’s how.

The Arkansas Lottery Relies More on Scratch-Off Tickets Than Neighboring States

So far this fiscal year, scratch-off tickets have accounted for about 85% of the Arkansas Lottery’s ticket sales.

Last year scratch-off tickets made up nearly 82% of the Lottery’s total ticket sales.

Better than four out of five lottery tickets sold in Arkansas are instant tickets.

That’s higher than lotteries in neighboring states like Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, and Louisiana.

Scratch-Off Tickets Are Addictive

Because players win or lose instantly, scratch-off tickets affect people in much the same way that casino-style games do. That makes them more addictive.

For example, a 2015 study in Canada found a link between problem gambling and instant lottery tickets, writing,

It is possible that problem gamblers are more attracted to instant win tickets than lottery tickets because instant win tickets provide immediate feedback. Some authors have even described instant win tickets as “paper slot machines” (Griffiths, 2002). Therefore, instant win tickets might be considered a more exciting form of lottery gambling, which may help explain why it attracts a different type of gambler than [ordinary] lottery tickets do. 

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions also found a link between how often a person played scratch-off tickets and the severity of a person’s gambling problem.

If Arkansas relies heavily on scratch-off tickets, that means we’re depending on a form of gambling that is linked to addiction and other gambling problems.

Expensive Scratch-Off Tickets Are Especially Bad

Once upon a time scratch-off tickets sold for $1 or $2 each, and the prizes were relatively small.

Today the Arkansas Lottery sells scratch-off tickets for as much as $10 or $20 apiece with big prizes and long odds.

People who spend $20 on one of Arkansas’ scratch-off tickets have a 67% – 88% chance of losing their money.

In 2007 The New York Times wrote about the dangers of high-price scratch-off tickets in Texas, and pointed out how they encourage people to buy lottery tickets out of desperation, saying,

But critics in Texas and elsewhere say games promising this kind of instant gratification are more likely to contribute to the kind of problem gambling that is usually associated with fast-paced casino betting, and they are now trying to limit them.

They say the games take particular advantage of the most vulnerable members of society, including the poor and members of minority groups.

“Scratch-off tickets are to the lottery what crack is to cocaine,” said State Senator Eliot Shapleigh, a Democrat who represents El Paso. . . .

The higher value games certainly appeal to people like Larry Hardy, who nearly every day walks from his central Houston rooming house to a nearby Chevron station to work odd jobs and buy scratch-off lottery tickets.

He has won $200 several times with a game called “Break the Bank,” but Mr. Hardy, who relies on $600 a month in federal disability payments to support himself, still spends $30 to $40 a week on the elusive dream of hitting it big.

“I feel at times I shouldn’t play again,” Mr. Hardy said, “but the reason I play is I really need $20, $30, $40 or maybe $50.”

After analyzing state lottery data in Texas in 2008, the Houston Chronicle found that Texas’ $50 scratch-off ticket “fared best in middle-income neighborhoods typically not considered affluent.”

Scratch-off tickets that cost $20 offer big payouts to people who are living on very little money.

That means they are likely to entice people to play the lottery out of desperation in hopes of “hitting it big.”

Conclusion

  • The Arkansas Lottery relies heavily on scratch-off tickets — more so than neighboring states.
  • Scratch-off tickets are associated with gambling addiction and other problems.
  • This makes it likely that the Arkansas Lottery is preying on people who suffer from gambling addictions and similar problems.
  • The Arkansas Lottery sells scratch-off tickets that cost as much as $20 apiece.
  • Evidence from other states indicates expensive scratch-off tickets that offer big payouts and slim odds ultimately prey on people who are desperate for money.

It’s also worth noting that the percentage of its revenue that the Arkansas Lottery allocates for education is well below average, and right now lottery scholarship funding for 2020 is on track to be bad even by the Arkansas Lottery’s standards.

The Lottery never has provided the $100 million per year for education that voters were promised back in 2008.

Bottom line: Ten years running, there’s really nothing celebrate about the Arkansas Lottery.