Shortly after the lottery launched in September 2009, the Times reported that the lottery commission would roll out ticket vending machines in the spring. There's no sign of them yet, but some legislators hope to ban the machines, saying they make it too easy for children to buy tickets.
Rep. Andrea Lea, R-Russellville, says she's ready to introduce a bill in 2011 that would take ticket vending machines off the streets.
“I usually don't like to enact legislation that inhibits adult behavior,” Lea says, “but when it comes to protecting children, I think it can be helpful and this is the right thing to do.”
The bill was prepared by the Family Council, a conservative group that has long been opposed to the lottery. Lea says many fellow Republicans have offered their support. She says she'll be able to get some Democrats to sign on as well.
Of course, if the lottery can't get major retail chain stores like Walmart, Target and Walgreen's to sign on, the vending machines might just collect dust in a warehouse somewhere. Walmart is not participating in the lottery so far.
The lottery commission's contract with Greece-based Intralot calls for 100 such vending machines. Lottery officials claim controls are in place to keep children from buying tickets. Any purchase would require the customer to swipe a driver's license to validate his or her age.
“I see this as very similar to the tobacco vending machine issue,” Lea says. “I think we've got enough other ways to buy lottery tickets in this state, we're not going to miss that one.”
License to steal
The Arkansas Commitment to Education Foundation (ACEF) has had a rough go of it lately. Last July, KATV reported that the non-profit, whose mission was to provide hard-working elementary school students with personal computers through the sale of specialty license plates, wasn't living up to its promises. Funds from the sale of those license plates — about $100,000 a year — were not nearly enough to cover the kids who qualified.
On Friday, a Legislative Joint Audit report showed that the former executive director of ACEF, Brandie Jones, took nearly $80,000 from the charity over the course of four years. According to a statement from ACEF's board, Jones has repaid the missing funds, but the legislative report said that Jones still owes $20,920.
Jones was the charity's only employee and efforts to award a prize to every student who qualified financially drained ACEF. Students who didn't receive the promised computer were given inexpensive electronic study aides and calculators. So what happens now?
According to a statement from the board of directors, the organization will now use available funds (about $71,000 surplus existed in the most recent financial statement) to assist elementary schools with technology projects through a grant process.
The board will not hire another executive director and future purchases will have to be approved by two board members. It's hard to find a spokesman for ACEF, now that its phone number is disconnected and its website lists no cur-rent board members.
One board member we were able to track down, who wished to remain anonymous, said the board did its job and all of Jones' purchases seemed legitimate at the time.
“In hindsight, this turned out to be a much bigger challenge, administratively, than we had planned for,” he said. “We have a goal of helping students. Period. That goal has not changed. This is an unfortunate situation, but we look forward to helping students and schools throughout the state.”