Panel hears complaints on lotto machines

Vending machines that dispense lottery tickets are headed to Arkansas retailers, after a legislative committee reviewed rules governing the machines but took no action, reports the Associated Press.

The Arkansas Lottery Commission Legislative Oversight Committee met Thursday and heard complaints about the new machines, but the panel isn’t authorized to approve or deny rules regarding the machines. Under state law, the authority rests with the Arkansas Lottery Commission, which gave its approval earlier this month.

Arkansas voters approved the new lottery in November 2008, and the games began last September. Proceeds go toward college scholarships of $5,000 for four-year students and $2,500 for two-year students.

Scratch-off cards, Powerball and MegaMillions tickets are currently sold only behind counters at stores throughout the state.

Lottery director Ernie Passailaigue said the new vending machines require the buyer to swipe a government-issued ID, and they can only be placed in locations with a clerk or cashier on hand to oversee transactions.

But opponents argued that the machines are one step closer to slot-machine-style gambling, and that an automated machine makes it easier for minors to buy and cash in lottery tickets.

Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council, said the vending machines will cause more compulsive gambling. For example, if someone wins under $20 on a ticket from a machine, he or she can keep buying tickets from the machine, based on credits from those winnings. He compared it to people who spend hours on slot machines and continue to gamble away money they’ve won.

Cox argued that the anonymity of the machines will cause people to spend more time and money on lottery tickets that they wouldn’t otherwise do in face-to-face transactions with store clerks. He also questioned how well the machines could prevent minors from buying tickets.

“If they are this good, then we ought to be selling cigarettes out of vending machines again. We ought to be selling beer out of vending machines again,” Cox said.

Passailaigue pointed out that the vending machines aren’t any less secure than the system currently in place, in which a store cashier can check IDs to ensure that the buyer is at least 18. A valid ID card must be scanned at a vending machine, so a fake ID wouldn’t work, he said.

State Rep. Darrin Williams, D-Little Rock, said he saw a demonstration of the machine and it appeared secure.

“It is nothing at all like a slot machine,” he said. “It doesn’t have the bells and whistles. It’s not going to be fun at all to play.”

The 100 machines already purchased by the lottery are expected to show up in stores beginning next month.

Cox and others urged the oversight committee to reconsider the state’s law lottery laws when the Legislature convenes in January for its regular session.

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