Morning report: Ethics, gambling | Arkansas Blog

Morning report: Ethics, gambling

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Of interest this morning:

* YOU WANT ETHICS? TIM JACOB WILL GIVE YOU SOME ETHICS: I wrote an item not long ago when Tim Jacob, a native Arkansan and national figure in the term limits movement, filed a proposed constitutional amendment to attempt to scare the legislature out of adopting a so-called ethics amendment that included weakening of term limits and a mechanism to raise legislative pay. Yesterday, the attorney general's office rejected Jacob's initial proposal for a variety of wording ambiguities. I'm guessing he'll be back with a cleaned-up proposal. At a minimum, he and allies will be back to campaign against the amendment the legislature referred to the voters in 2014. Legislators best hope the worst Jacob does is beat their amendment to serve more years at higher pay. (Their amendment would require them to give up a relative pittance in corporate campaign contributions, but that money will merely find its way to independent expenditure groups for the same purpose, electing lawmakers beholden to special interests.)

Jacob's amendment would cut total allowable time in the legislature to 10 years, from the legislature's preferred 16. It would require voter approval of pay raises — not pay raises granted by a commission with a majority vote of legislative appointees. It would deprive future legislators of public pensions. It would prohibit all gifts from lobbyists, with none of the banquet and junket exceptions included in the recently referred constitutional amendment.

Want ethics? Careful what you wish for, Arkansas legislators.

* LOTTERY PROVES NEED FOR EDUCATION: Another monthly Lottery Commission meeting and another report in the D-G this morning on the dowward trend of state lottery revenue. In three years time, lottery scholarships have dropped from $5,000 to $2,000 a year for entering freshmen. Net revenue seems headed to a 10 percent drop from its peak this year. Are Arkies getting smarter? Are they increasingly realizing that the lottery is a sucker play? Maybe figures are down simply because a tough economy is squeezing the scratch-ticket players. Lottery Director Bishop Woosley inadvertently demonstrated mathematical skills equivalent to those of the average lottery player in talking about the declining numbers.

The Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots “are kind of sitting on the edge of making runs,” he told the nine-member commission. “Knock on wood and cross your fingers; hopefully one of those will take off.”

That's like sitting in a casino and telling yourself, "This slot machine is just about to pay off."

It's math, lottery fans. Probability. No magic juju produces a "run." No knocking on wood nor sacrifice of goats nor religious incantation affects the immutability of random number generation (that number generation first calculated, of course, to produce a payoff with an acceptable profit margin for the house.) The profitability of the game DOES depend on players, like the lottery director, with deeper faith in superstition than numbers.

PS — In the fall of 2010, tuition at the University of Arkansas for a full load for undergraduates, with mandatory fees, was $6,459. It's now $7,553 and, like room, board and expenses, heading nowhere but up. With price increases at the college and a decline in the value of the lottery scholarship, the lottery scholarship money now barely offsets the increased cost since the year the lottery was created only three years ago.

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