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Arkansas builder donates $300K to get lottery started

Oct 10, 2007, 11:08 pm

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A Little Rock, Arkansas, developer said Tuesday he and his family has pledged $300,000 to Lt. Gov. Bill Halter's push to get state lottery proposed on the 2008 general election ballot.

John Bailey, owner of Bailey Properties, said he was willing to help finance a campaign for a proposed constitutional amendment because he believes a state lottery with all of the money going into college scholarships, would benefit the state and its economy.

"I just think it's a great idea," Bailey said, adding that he believes voters should have the opportunity to vote on the issue.

The announcement came as the proposal by Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is being rewritten to overcome drafting deficiencies the attorney general cited last week in rejecting the measure's popular name and ballot title.

Certification by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is a prerequisite to beginning a petition drive to gather the signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot.

Many people across the state do not have the financial means to attend college on their own and need some assistance, Bailey said Monday.

"I know in my head and my heart that when Arkansas provides more scholarships through this initiative we will see more Arkansans achieve their full potential," he said.

Halter, who pledged to support a lottery amendment during his successful campaign for office last year but failed to win legislative support during this year's regular session, praised Bailey and his family for pledging financial support for a ballot initiative campaign.

"They have made an extraordinary commitment ... to let Arkansas voters decide for themselves whether to allow a scholarship lottery in the state of Arkansas," Halter said.

The lieutenant governor has estimated a state lottery would generate $100 million annually for scholarships. His proposed constitutional amendment would place the money in a trust for scholarships for Arkansans to attend colleges and universities in the state.

Last week, McDaniel wrote that the measure "is silent with respect to the management of such funds" and is unclear about who could receive the scholarships.

Halter said Tuesday the measure was being rewritten to address McDaniel's concerns and would be resubmitted.

If the measure is certified by the attorney general, Halter and supporters of the proposal would have until July 7, 2008, to collect 77,468 signatures of registered voters — 10 percent of the votes in the 2006 gubernatorial election — to place it on the general election ballot.

Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, one of the organizations opposing the lottery proposal, said the $300,000 pledge is not a concern.

"This is nothing new," he said. "We have campaigned against gambling before when those campaigns had a lot more money than we did. It's a classic grassroots intensity campaign that we do versus high intensity, high-funded campaigns."

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