|Attempts to expand legal gambling were quashed in the Arkansas legislature after $400,000 was spent on anti-gambling lobbying – although nobody seems to know where this money came from.|
“It does leave a lot of unanswered questions when you can come in under a ghost organization and completely impact public policy but don’t have to reveal where you got the money to pay for it,” said Rep. Steve Jones, D-West Memphis, House sponsor of the proposed legislation to potentially expand gambling at two race-track locations.
“The public’s right to know leaves a lot to be desired. I think people ought to have the right to know who their public officials are listening to,” he said.
Arkansans for the 21st Century is the “ghost organization” referred to, that put up the large sum for advertising in opposition to gambling, but many in and around the state Capitol believe the money represented anti-competition as much or more than anti-gambling.
State disclosure laws, or the lack of same, make it next to impossible to determine the sources of cash to such political groups.
Arkansans for the 21st Century got the bulk of its money for the campaign from out of state, but also received contributions from people and organizations in Arkansas who either were opposed to gambling or philosophically opposed to monopolies on gambling machines at the racetracks, according to a source who did not want to speak for attribution.
Casino gambling is legal at several venues just across the Mississippi River in Mississippi.
“In Mississippi, we (Arkansans) are about 20 percent of their market share,” Representative Jones said. “Arkansans spent about $3.8 billion last year there.”
“Naturally they don’t want to lose any of our business. They don’t want to lose those revenues,” Jones said. However, others such as Larry Page, director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, doubt that the campaign had much effect on the vote on the bill.