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Arkansas Attorney General supports lottery, but cites cost concerns

Nov 3, 2008, 5:11 pm

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Arkansas Lottery

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on Friday said he voted for creating a state-run lottery to fund college scholarships, despite concerns about how much it will cost the state to start up the games.

McDaniel said he wants lottery revenues to pay for any additional lawyers his office may need to hire to address legal issues related to the games.

McDaniel said he cast his ballot last week as an early voter. The lottery amendment appears on the ballot for Tuesday's general election.

"I was not very excited about voting yes, but ultimately I thought about the idea of having thousands of kids and thousands of Arkansas families over the next many years having an easier time affording college and decided that I should cast my vote in favor of trying to make things easier for them," McDaniel told The Associated Press.

McDaniel said he thinks his office will probably need to hire additional attorneys to work on contracts with lottery vendors and address other legal issues that may arise about the lottery.

"I will consider how many additional attorneys my office may need to employ to handle all the legal issues that will arise as a result of the lottery and I will want the lottery to pay for that," McDaniel said.

McDaniel also said he will urge lawmakers to follow a restrictive definition of a lottery. McDaniel had previously said he's concerned that the lottery amendment would allow video lottery terminals similar to slot machines.

The lottery amendment is being promoted by Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who says it could raise $100 million annually for college scholarships. Both Halter and McDaniel are Democrats who are considered potential rivals for governor in 2014.

The details on the lottery's games and organization would have to be sorted out by legislators if the amendment passes. Halter said he's pleased McDaniel voted for the amendment but said it's premature to talk about additional lawyers for the AG's office.

"I hadn't really thought about that level of detail," Halter said. "I think all of those details will have to be ironed out in a legislative session, presuming that this passes. I'd want to look and see what has happened in other states."

The attorney general's office is routinely funded by appropriations approved each two years by the Legislature. The proposed amendment requires lottery proceeds after operating expenses and prizes to go toward college scholarships.

Gov. Mike Beebe earlier Friday said he remains undecided about the lottery and will probably remain that way until he votes on Tuesday in his hometown of Searcy.

"It depends what day of the week I wake up. One day I'm going to vote for it and the next day I wake up and decide I'm not going to vote for it," Beebe said.

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