Groups spar on potential arcade machine ballot proposal

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 659 views 

A group opposing an amendment proposal that would bring thousands of coin-operated amusement machines to Arkansas is speaking out.

Protect Arkansas Communities gathered at the Arkansas State Capitol on Friday (Feb. 21) in hopes of swaying voters not to support this effort. Arcade Arkansas wants to bring coin operated amusement machines to convenience stores and other businesses such as restaurants, but the opposition said this will allow communities to be invaded by gambling machines with no control over where they’re placed.

Arcade Arkansas is currently gathering petition signatures in hopes of qualifying for the November ballot. More than 89,000 signatures will be needed by July 3rd for the “The Coin Operated Amusement Machine Amendment” to qualify. It would alter Amendment 19 to the Arkansas Constitution.

“If you interact with a petitioner who asks you to sign, we encourage you to sign the petition even if you support or oppose the concept. Let’s let the voters get their decision at the ballot box this November,” said Jason Cline, Arcade Arkansas spokesperson.

Part of the proposal does not involve cash prizes, but instead items worth five dollars or less including lottery scratch off tickets.

The proposal also includes imposing a new 20% tax on these machines with 100% of that tax revenue going to the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery.

The state lottery’s director, Bishop Woosley, is speaking out against the effort and said it would take time away from their scholarship program.

“I’ve talked to some other lotteries that have been involved with this,” said Woosley. “I’m understanding this is going to take about 90% of our time to enforce this, get this into place, which takes away from the amount of time that we actually could do what we’re supposed to do which is to play games, put them that out into the public and raise money for scholarships.”

To date, Arcade Arkansas has spent close to $360,000 collecting signatures as of the end of January. It has collected money from individuals and organizations in the investment, amusement and gaming industries in Arkansas and Georgia.

Protect Arkansas Communities is a coalition that includes lottery supporters, veterans advocates, and some locally elected officials. It has only filed its organizational papers in February and has yet to report any financial contributions or expenses.

Editor’s note: KATV’s senior political reporter Marine Glisovic and Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock collaborated for this report.