PAY TO PLAY: One of the amusement machines that have become popular around the country and have become a point of legal contention here.
With no discussion, the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning approved SB 496 to prohibit Alcoholic Beverage Control Division agents from enforcing rules against gambling devices
in permitted businesses.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Flippo,
also authorizes "the sale of pull-tab cards,
" a form of gambling.
And it further gives to each prosecuting attorney the power to define gaming devices in their districts. The prosecutor coordinator's office was present today, but offered no comment.
This is a lawsuit waiting to happen, given the Arkansas constitutional prohibition against gambling, except for the state lottery and parimutuel wagering. It is also essentially a local option (as determined by a prosecutor) gambling bill.
It gets worse. An amendment was proposed today to make it a crime if a law officer DOES enforce an anti-gambling law.
Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson
is chair of Judiciary. He has legal clients with interests in businesses that place gambling machines in convenience stores and elsewhere. He's the attorney in a related case in St. Francis County. He was the father of the expansion of the so-called Chuck E. Cheese law to allow significant monetary prizes on gambling machines in the Dave and Buster's
that recently opened in Little Rock. Opponents of that bill said it would inevitably lead to expansion of gambling elsewhere and it apparently has. Several legislators have complained about enforcement by the ABC of anti-gambling rules in businesses in their district.
PS: Hutchinson didn't vote in committee and said he wouldn't vote on the floor. He said he'll file a letter in the Senate noting his personal financial interest in the issue. He also noted that the Dave and Busters' bill was written to cover a large facility. The Chuck E. Cheese bill, which declares prizes worth up to $12 are legal, is a more limited law.