The panel meets at the State Capitol on Thursday afternoon.
Cox said, “Under the enabling legislation for the Arkansas Lottery, this oversight committee has very little—if any—real authority over the Arkansas Lottery Commission, but I hope they will join the 1,220 plus Arkansans who said ‘we don’t want lottery ticket vending machines in our state.”
Cox went on to say, “I know a lot of people don’t understand what the point is in having an oversight committee with no authority. Lottery proponents said the committee would help hold the Lottery Commission accountable, but that’s not what the law says. Under Arkansas law, all this committee can really do is listen to the Lottery Commission’s latest plans. What I want to know is how do you hold a state agency accountable if you can’t stop them from doing something that’s harmful? You can’t.
“Personally, I think it’s just the Lottery Commission’s way of trying to present the illusion that they have the Legislature’s approval without actually having to get it. Nevertheless, while Arkansas law may not give the Lottery Oversight Committee much decision-making power, it can’t stop the lawmakers on the committee from telling the Lottery Commission, ‘Look, I know I can’t stop you from rolling out these machines, but I want you to know I cannot, as an elected representative, say I approve of what you’re doing.”
Cox also said, “If you were to start asking around, I think you would find more than a few lawmakers are really getting fed up with the fact that this state agency can thumb its nose at the Arkansas Legislature and the People of Arkansas if it wants to. I really hope some of the legislators on the oversight committee will express that sentiment at tomorrow’s meeting.”
When asked about his opposition to the machines, Cox said, “We oppose lottery vending machines because of the harm they are going to do to our state. The decision the Lottery Commission is making will open the door to other kinds of lottery machines down the road—machines that look more like slot machines. We know that will lead to increases in underage gambling, problem gambling, and gambling addiction. In 2008, the State of Arkansas busted payday lenders across the state because their lending practices were illegal. We outlaw those kinds of lending practices because of the harm they cause to Arkansas’ families. And now here the Lottery Commission wants to bring the State into a business that has the potential to cause much more social and economic harm than payday lenders ever did, and they don’t have a problem with it. Someone has to stand up and say, ‘that’s not how we do things around here.”
Cox said he has already spoken with some lawmakers about the possibility of introducing legislation to ban lottery ticket vending machines this January. “South Carolina’s lottery has done just fine without vending machines. So have about ten or twelve other states’. The Arkansas Lottery Commission has presented no solid reason as to why they don’t believe they can run a lottery as well as these states have, and unless they can offer some compelling evidence to the Arkansas Legislature between now and January, I believe vending machines are going to be a thing of the past by this time next year.”