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For loading and reference purposes, this news section has been divided into two parts. For reference of older articles, visit Section 2: 8/05/2008 - 8/28/2008.

Arkansas Lottery Backers Counter Lawsuit's Claims

9/23/2008: Supporters of a proposed Arkansas lottery told the state's highest court on Monday that a lawsuit's argument that it would allow casino gambling is a "classic red herring."

Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and other members of a committee he formed to campaign for his lottery ballot measure filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit before the Arkansas Supreme Court. The Arkansas Family Council filed the lawsuit last week to keep the proposal off the Nov. 4 ballot, claiming its title was misleading to voters because it did not define a lottery.[1]

Arkansas court asked to block state lottery proposal

9/23/2008: The Arkansas Supreme Court has been asked to reject a legal challenge to a proposed state-run lottery in the Natural State.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and proponents of the plan made their request Monday. They are asking the state's high court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the text of the proposed constitutional amendment rather than the ballot title.

Halter and others say the lottery would generate millions of dollars for college scholarships. Arkansas is one of just eight states without a lottery.

Proponents of the plan say the Family Council Action Committee's argument that establishing a state lottery would lead to casino gaming in the state is a red herring.

"Casino gambling is prohibited by statute in Arkansas, not by the Constitution," the court filing said.

The Family Council Action Committee is seeking to remove the measure from the Nov. 4 statewide ballot.

The group says the proposal's name and ballot title are "materially inaccurate, incomplete and misleading" because voters are not told that the proposal would remove language from the state constitution that prohibits lotteries.[2]

Ohio: Fangs come out over casino vote

9/24/2008: The political battle to legalize a $600 million casino development outside Wilmington is heating up this week as opponents take to the airwaves across Ohio and proponents go on the defensive.

Officials of MyOhio Now.com, which is seeking to amend Ohio's constitution to authorize the casino 50 miles northeast of Cincinnati, on Tuesday blasted the parent company of Argosy Casino for helping bankroll what they estimated to be a $25 million to $35 million campaign to shoot down Issue 6 on November's ballot. They urged voters to disregard ads that began running Tuesday night - and also to boycott the Lawrenceburg casino owned by Penn National Gaming, Inc..

"Over the last week, we saw how greed on Wall Street has affected the lives of average Ohioans," MyOhio Now.com founder Rick Lertzman said at a news conference at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Blue Ash. "This week we're about to see how monopolistic greed is seeking to destroy Ohio's dream of having its own casino."

The opposition group No on Issue 6 denied it would be spending as much as My OhioNow.Com claimed. "That's a made up number with no basis in reality," said spokesman Bob Tenenbaum, who declined to elaborate on his group's budget.

The stakes of the clash are high. The development team behind the Wilmington effort estimates its casino could siphon as much as half of Argosy's nearly $480 million in annual revenues.[3]

Ohio: Rich foe joins casino fight

9/24/2008: The sponsors of a low-key ballot measure to build a casino in southwestern Ohio suddenly have a battle on their hands -- both hands.

On the right is Vote No Casinos, a group that includes many of Ohio's traditional gambling opponents such as leaders of the conservative public-policy group Ohio Roundtable. On the left comes the No On 6 committee, with the financial heft of a Pennsylvania-based gambling conglomerate that owns a riverboat casino near Cincinnati and a horse track in Toledo.

Issue 6 would authorize a $600 million casino resort in Clinton County, about midway between Columbus and Cincinnati.

No On 6 formally announced itself yesterday. It will be headed by former Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken and funded by Penn National Gaming, owner of the Argosy casino in Indiana near Cincinnati and Raceway Park in Toledo, among other properties.[4]

Maryland: NAACP speaks out against slots

9/21/2008: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, rallied a state conference of the Maryland NAACP Saturday against a November ballot measure on legalized slot machines.

"Slot machines are not a solution to anything; they are part of the problem," Mr. Franchot told about two dozen county representatives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Mr. Franchot is one of the staunchest opponents of Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposal to allow 15,000 slot terminals at four locations across the state. Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, says the measure will help ease the state's budget problems and boost funds for education. The state is facing an estimated $432 million budget shortfall this year and more than twice that next year. Slots are expected to generate about $600 million a year in state revenue.

KEITH SMILEY/THE WASHINGTON TIMES Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot addresses a state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Landover on Saturday.

"The poor and minorities will disproportionately suffer the negative consequences of slots, and gambling executives will get rich on the backs of Maryland families who can least afford it," the Maryland NAACP said in a statement.

"Revenue from slot machines are the wrong direction and will not fix the deficit. The deficit will be there whether we put in slot machines or not," Mr. Franchot said. Excessive government spending is the underlying problem, he said.[5]

Colorado: Regulator cites tax cap in opposing casino plan

9/18/2008: A state gaming regulator is one of the first prominent voices of opposition to a November ballot initiative that could lead to higher casino bet limits.

Meyer Saltzman, a member of the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission, stated concerns about a provision in the amendment that would take authority away from regulators to raise taxes on the industry.

The commission has the power to raise the tax rate on the industry up to 40 percent, though the highest rate charged on a casino currently is 20 percent.

The industry-backed Amendment 50 ballot measure proposes to cap the rate at 20 percent and require statewide voter approval for any increases in the tax rate if the existing $5 casino bet limit is raised.

"I'm against the idea of having a limitation on the gaming tax where you have to go to the vote of the people to get it raised," Saltzman said.[6]

Ohio: Casino opponents bring up loophole in law

9/16/2008: Opponents of a casino-gambling proposal on the November ballot say it contains a loophole that could exempt the casino from paying the millions of dollars in taxes to every county in the state.

But backers of the proposal guarantee that the taxes will be paid.

One thing everyone can agree on about the amendment on the November ballot that would allow gambling in Ohio: if an American Indian casino opens in the state, a legal battle is likely.

At issue is how much taxes a proposed Clinton County casino, which prompted the amendment, will pay if an Indian casino opens in Ohio. Clinton County is between Columbus and Cincinnati.

A portion of the amendment says that the tax rate on gross casino receipts "shall not exceed the lesser of 25 percent or the lowest percentage rate payable by any other casino subsequently authorized."

The casino proponents have made tax receipts a major selling point by crafting the measure so some money will go directly into the coffers of all 88 Ohio counties. Projecting that the Clinton County casino would gross $800 million a year from gambling, proponents say 30 percent, or about $240 million, would be distributed to counties and for other costs.[7]

Arkansas: Billionaire Jim Walton gives $75,000 to anti-lottery campaign

9/16/2008: The Family Council's campaign opposing a proposed state-run lottery received a financial boost last month with a $75,000 contribution from billionaire Jim Walton of Bentonville, according to a financial report filed Monday with the state Ethics Commission.

The contribution from Walton, son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and chairman of Arvest Bank, brings the Family Council Action Committee's total contributions to date to $77,111. The committee has spent $3,472, leaving it with $73,639 on hand.

The donation was a welcome surprise, said Jerry Cox, executive director of the Family Council.

"We just received a check in the mail," Cox said. "We had not asked for the donation. I ... very quickly called to thank him for the donation, and like a lot of people at his level we weren't able to talk to him, but I conveyed our thanks to him through his secretary and then followed that up with a very nice thank-you letter for such a generous gift."

Cox said the Family Council plans to use the money primarily for advertising.

"We're working on some radio spots, and today I met with our graphic design person to talk to him about putting together a newspaper ad," he said. "We also took to our graphic design people some wording for a little push card that would be suitable for church bulletin inserts or just handing out door-to-door."

The Family Council probably will not buy TV ads with the money but may buy TV air time if other contributions make that possible, Cox said.

Lt. Gov. Bill Halter's proposed constitutional amendment to create a state-run lottery to fund college scholarships has been approved for the Nov. 4 general election ballot. Early voting begins Oct. 20.[8]

Maryland: Slots decision is a win for referendum proponents

9/16/2008: A legal challenge to proposed ballot language for November's slot-machine referendum has mostly failed, although yesterday the state's highest court upheld a lower court's order to add one word to the hotly contested question.

Last week, a panel of Anne Arundel Circuit Court judges ruled that the proposed ballot language was misleading but could be fixed by adding a single word to clarify that state education programs would be the primary and not sole recipients of anticipated revenues.

Yesterday, the seven-judge Court of Appeals affirmed that decision and ordered the plaintiffs to pay court costs.

"I think this is the death knell for challenges to the vote in November," said Austin C. Schlick, the attorney general's office's chief of litigation, who argued the case on behalf of the state. "It's good that the court has removed uncertainty surrounding the ballot and given the state time to know what the language will be."

Aaron Meisner, the head of one of two anti-slots groups that sued the state over the ballot language, said he was disappointed at the high court's ruling, which came several hours after the panel heard morning arguments. "I have to say I'm kind of surprised, given the tone of the questions that were being asked."

"It's an unfortunate decision," Meisner said. "Anybody who has any understanding of the situation knows that the question is misleading and that adding the word primary is a vague half-measure solution that doesn't really make the question any less misleading to the average voter."

At the heart of the opponents' argument was that ballot language drafted by the secretary of state misrepresents the initiative because it does not mention that slots revenue will subsidize the horse racing industry and benefit gambling interests. The constitutional amendment would legalize 15,000 slot machines at five locations across the state.[9]

Colorado: Gambling backers raise over $6 million

9/13/2008: A fight over Amendment 50, a measure aimed at allowing Colorado casino towns to raise betting limits to $100 from $5, is a lopsided one.

On one side of the debate is a casino-backed group that has raised more than $6 million and has launched an aggressive advertising campaign to tout the initiative.

On the other is Jon Anderson, a Denver lawyer who opposes the expansion of gambling in Colorado. The former chief counsel to Gov. Bill Owens said he is not working on behalf of a client, and while he has filed papers to form a committee to accept contributions, he does not have a single dollar to fund the resistance.

The new proposal would let Black Hawk, Cripple Creek and Central City hold their own elections on raising the maximum wager to $100, keeping casinos open 24 hours a day and adding craps and roulette. More than three-quarters of the additional gaming-tax revenue would go to the state's community colleges.[10]

Missouri: KC chamber endorses capping casinos, ending loss limits

9/08/2008: The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s board has endorsed Proposition A, a measure on the Nov. 4 ballot that would limit the number of Missouri casinos to those already built or being built, eliminate loss limits and raise the gaming tax that casinos pay to finance schools.

“Proposition A is important for our economy, especially in the Kansas City area, and it’s important for our schools,” Chamber President Pete Levi said in a release Monday. “Missouri’s unemployment rate is the highest it has been since 1998. Schools throughout the state face increasing costs and budget cuts. Prop A will protect the 12,000 Missouri jobs that casinos provide and provide over $100 million per year in new funding for schools statewide — without increasing any taxes on Missouri residents.”

The Missouri gaming tax paid by casinos generates nearly $300 million a year for schools, the chamber said in the release. Proposition A would increase that tax rate to 21 percent and eliminate the state’s $500 loss limit. The chamber cited the Missouri state auditor’s estimate that the changes would provide $105 million to $130 million a year in new revenue for Missouri schools.[11]

Colorado: Measure may be jackpot for Colo. casinos

9/04/2008: The passage of a higher-stakes gambling ballot measure could bring millions of dollars in investments and a significant number of new jobs to Colorado, the chairman of one of the state's largest casino operators said Thursday.

Golden Gaming, which operates three casinos in this gambling town, has preliminary plans for an $80 million expansion if the bet limit is raised from $5 to $100.

"I don't want to make a promise, but we have plans on the shelf that, in two phases, roughly amount to $70 (million) or $80 million in additional physical expansion, which would include up to 300 hotel rooms, additional casino space, entertainment and restaurant space," said Blake Sartini, Golden Gaming chairman and chief executive.

Amendment 50 will ask Colorado voters in November to allow the mountain gambling jurisdictions to hold local elections to raise the bet limit, extend to 24-hour operations and add craps and roulette.

"I can safely say it would provide significantly more jobs in the community as people would add table games and expand hours," Sartini said.

Casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek already employ close to 8,000 people, he said.

The industry is financing the Amendment 50 campaign and has contributed $6.1 million thus far. Many casinos have agreed to contribute a set amount to the campaign based on their size, Sartini said, and Golden Gaming plans to give $1.1 million.

Raising limits, extending hours and adding games would "clearly" make the state more attractive for new investments, Amendment 50 spokeswoman Katy Atkinson said.

"Right now, the industry is in a decline in terms of revenue," Atkinson said. "I think all of the economists, certainly the ones at Legislative Council, expect Amendment 50 to turn that around."[12]