Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Arkansas Faces Lawsuit Over Problem Gambling Treatment Fail

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Posted on: May 20, 2022, 02:42h. 

Last updated on: May 20, 2022, 02:42h.

Three and a half years after Arkansas voters opted to change the state constitution (Amendment 100) to allow casino gaming, funds pledged to help combat problem gambling have not materialized, local CBS affiliate THV11 reports.

Arkansas problem gambling
Arkansas’ Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, above, has asked the state finance department and procurement office to look for a company that can provide problem gambling services, but no timeframe has been set. (Image: CNN)

The vote authorized the state’s two former racinos, Southland and Oaklawn, to transition to full-scale casinos with slot machines, table games, and sports betting. It also paved the way for two new casino properties, one each in Jefferson and Pope counties.

But it was also stipulated – in fact, it was written into the state constitution – that $200,000 a year would be funneled into compulsive gambling disorder treatment and educational programs.

Arkansas has had Las Vegas-style casino gaming up and running since 2019, but there’s still no sign of the promised resources to tackle problem gambling.

‘Contrary to State Constitution’

“This seems to be the only portion of Amendment 100 that hasn’t been fully implemented,” attorney Joe Denton told THV11 Wednesday.

“When you consider the overall cost of implementing this portion of the amendment, compared to the revenues that would be generated by casino gambling, it seems like it’s rather silly that we haven’t already moved funding for this project,” Denton said.

Denton represents Faneisha Mosely, an Arkansas resident who has sued the state racing commission for “misapplication of taxpayer funds” for failing to direct money towards problem gambling.

The lawsuit argues the commission has acted in a way that is “contrary to the clear and unambiguous language of Amendment 100 of the Arkansas Constitution.”

It seeks an order compelling the commission to provide at least $200,000 every year for compulsive gambling disorder treatment and educational programs, and it wants this backdated to 2019.

‘Almost There’

Scott Hardin, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Racing Commission, told THV11 that the payments are in the offing, and his agency was “working day to day just to get this complete.”

“I understand why someone would say ‘why is this not in place,’” he said. “But our position is we’re almost there.”

In response to the lawsuit, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has asked the state Department of Finance and Administration to transfer $200,000 from the rainy day fund. This will allow the Office of State Procurement to secure the services of a company that can provide problem gambling programs. But no timeframe has been set for the awarding of this contract.

Denton said his client is prepared to drop the lawsuit if state officials show they have made sufficient progress.

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