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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Director Bishop Woosley is shown in this file photo.

The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery opposes a proposed constitutional amendment that would authorize coin-operated amusement machines because it would cost students millions of scholarship dollars and burden the lottery with a new division, lottery Director Bishop Woosley said Friday.

"There has been a lot of disinformation in the canvassing campaign that the lottery is behind this initiative or it is part of what the lottery is trying to do [and] that is not true," Woosley said at a news conference held by the Protect Arkansas Communities committee that opposes the Arcade Arkansas committee's proposal. The Protect Arkansas Communities committee is chaired by Nicole Hart of North Little Rock.

Under the proposed amendment, the lottery would administer and regulate licenses for coin-operated amusement machines and operators.

Net machine receipts would be subject to a 20% tax, with the revenue given to the lottery's office.

The Arcade Arkansas committee, chaired by William Beams of Hot Springs, has been collecting signatures since September. The valid signatures of 89,151 registered voters must be turned in to the secretary of state's office by July 3 for the proposal to be on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

"As seen in other states, the initiative would result in the legitimization and proliferation of these machines throughout establishments in communities across the state," Woosley said. "This would result in increased gaming competition for the lottery and ultimately negatively impact lottery proceeds."

The proposed amendment would impose an immediate burden on the lottery to create a new division responsible for the licensing, oversight and enforcement of coin-operated machines, and result in substantial increases in staffing and salaries and an increased burden on lottery employees, Woosley said.

The proposal "ultimately would cost the students of Arkansas millions of dollars in proceeds," he said. "The 20% tax on amusement machines will never offset the loss and cost of enforcement and the increased gaming competition that the lottery would face."

But Arkansas Arcade spokesman Jason Cline said afterward in a written statement that "we expect this would be positive for the Scholarship Lottery because the net receipts are taxed at 20% and 100% of the tax revenue goes to the Scholarship Lottery."

Asked if he has projections regarding how much the proposed amendment would mean for the lottery, Cline said he doesn't have those figures yet.

Through Jan. 31, the Arcade Arkansas committee reported raising $360,631.33 in contributions and spending $358,840.91, leaving a balance of $1,790.42. The reported contributions include $110,653.96 from Nourin Charania, chief executive officer of Georgia-based Falcon Amusements; $86,651.87 from Anwarali Charania of Little Rock, president of Shariq Investment Inc.; $51,898.49 from Bahaburali Hamid of Little Rock, chief executive officer of Arkansas Gaming; and $45,746.47 from Zoheb Charania of Little Rock, director of operations at Shariq Investment Inc.

Metro on 02/23/2020

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