A news conference is scheduled at 10 a.m. today by the coalition I told you about earlier in the week to oppose initiative efforts to expand casino gambling in Arkansas.
Delaware North, owner of the Southland casino in West Memphis, is underwriting this campaign, Stop Casinos Now. Here are some questions for the clergy and public officials who've been roped into opposing casino initiatives:
* Do you feel a little hypocritical putting your names on a committee that has already mailed unsourced flyers, financed by a casino, talking about the predatory nature of casinos?
* Do you feel a little hypocritical putting your names on a flyer complaining about creation of monopoly casinos that was paid for by a monopoly casino?
* Do you feel comfortable talking about the lack of regulation of casinos in the new proposals when Arkansas has virtually NO regulation of casinos now? Check the state Racing Commission, nominal overseer of "electronic games of skill" at the monopoly casinos slyly introduced into Arkansas by Southland and Oaklawn Park. You won't find a gaming division even exists at that tiny agency, at least one worthy of mention on the website. (DF&A employs field auditors, 7 at each track, that make sure the state is getting its tax take.)
* Do you know that this campaign is being run by consultants, the Markham Group, that waged a successful semantic battle before the state Ethics Commission to avoid specific disclosure of money spent on campaigns such as the one in which you've enlisted?
* Do you support disclosure of campaign expenditures equivalent to that required of political candidates? If not, why not?
* How did your committee manage to drop a mass mailing in Arkansas mailboxes without being required to file an ethical disclosure statement (normally triggered by a $500 expenditure)? Did the postal service mail those flyers for free? (The committee will belatedly file today, after the campaign was already underway.)
* How has the committee already managed to begin live calling against the casino initiatives without having yet filed an organizational statement for your committee?
That'll do for starters.
PS — I am no shill for the current casino petitions circulating. They're crazily bad, as I noted here. But the hypocrisy in this effort is too blatant to ignore.
Still waiting for the Ethics Commission filing. But the news release with Southland's helpers (no mention of gambling support) follows. It's bipartisan, but Republicans Prissy Hickerson and Eddie Joe Williams have both been quoted about not wanting Las Vegas-style casinos in Arkansas. Neither has proposed to pack up Southland and Oaklawn and move them to Nevada, however:
LITTLE ROCK, AR – A diverse group of community leaders, law enforcement officers, and elected officials from around the state gathered at the State Capitol Thursday to announce the creation of Stop Casinos Now!, a committee to oppose ballot initiatives to bring Las Vegas – style casinos to Arkansas.
“We’ve seen what happens when these full-scale casinos come to town – you get increased crime, higher unemployment, and more families going bankrupt,” said Chuck Lange, the committee chairman and former executive director of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association. “Nancy Todd is a Las Vegas insider, trying to come in and tell Arkansans what’s best for our state, so she can make a profit at our expense; we’ve got to stop her initiative. We want folks to be aware if they are asked to sign a petition, they need to think twice. It’s going to take all of us working together to protect our communities and our families,” said Lange.
“Big casinos are a nightmare for the men and women out there working hard to keep our neighborhoods safe,” said Doc Holladay, Sheriff of Pulaski County, one of the locations where Todd proposes to authorize a casino. “It has been shown that these casinos cause an increase in serious crime within the first few years of opening. I say keep it in Vegas - we don’t want that in our backyard,” Holladay said.
Several state legislators have also joined the effort to stop this measure from reaching the ballot. “This is bad policy, and it’s bad precedent,” said Rep. Prissy Hickerson (R-Texarkana). “This initiative would not only change our state’s constitution, it would establish an unregulated casino industry that answers to no one. Setting something like this up with no oversight would be a gamble with our state’s future, and I think the stakes are too high for that,” said Hickerson.
“As a pastor, I believe these casinos will have a harmful impact on countless Arkansas families,” said Bishop Sam Wherry, Monticello. “They prey on the poor, and as a religious leader, I’ve seen firsthand the destructive emotional and financial burden the addiction can have on individuals, their spouses, and their children,” said Wherry.
For more information, visit StopCasinosNow.com
Committee members include:
Chuck Lange, Chairman, Former Executive Director of Arkansas Sheriff’s Association
Chief Albert Brown, Booneville
Chief Bob Harrison, Texarkana
Chief Danny Bradley, North Little Rock
Chief Don Oakes, West Memphis
Chief Gary Kelly, Marion
Chief Gary Sipes, Jacksonville
Chief Norbert Gunderman, Morrilton
Sheriff Doc Holladay, Pulaski County
Rep. Keith Ingram (D), West Memphis
Rep. Prissy Hickerson (R), Texarkana
Rep. Hudson Hallum (D), West Memphis
Rep. Mark Perry (D), Jacksonville
Rep. Andy Mayberry (R), Hensley
Rep. Jane English (R), Sherwood
Rep. Tommy Thompson (D), Morrilton
Rep. Jon Eubanks (R), Paris
Rep. Larry Cowling (D), Foreman
Rep. Johnnie Roebuck (D), Arkadelphia
Rep. Kathy Webb (D), Little Rock
Rep. Ed Garner (R), Maumelle
Rep. David Sanders (R), Little Rock
Rep. Gary Stubblefield (R), Branch
Rep. John Vines (D), Hot Springs
Rep. Barry Hyde (D), North Little Rock
Senator Steve Harrelson (D), Texarkana
Senator Jeremy Hutchinson (R), Little Rock
Senator David Johnson (D), Little Rock
Senator Eddie Joe Williams (R), Cabot
Rev. Carl Hunter, Little Rock
Bishop Sam Wherry, Monticello
Rev. Melvin Graves, Pine Bluff