At this minute, multiple sources tell me this is the deal for the fight over the Oaklawn casino-backed effort to prohibit the Arkansas lottery from beginning electric monitor-provided keno-style games, now set for late September:
Legislation to ban the games will pass, but it will include a sunset provision in March 2015.
In other words, the lottery status quo — no monitor games — will be preserved through the regular legislative session in 2015. A full discussion of the issue can then be held in the regular session on whether to extend the ban or allow the lottery to go forward with other options.
Call it the restaurant/bar full employment act. The Oaklawn lobbying firm, Mullenix Associates, will be wearing out credit cards feting lawmakers. Lottery vendors will be available for dinnertime companionship, too.
None of this will be known for sure until the House Rules Committee meets after adjournment of the House this afternoon. That committee is under the control of Speaker Davy Carter. He’d expressed resistance to the idea of considering lottery legislation this session, but the Oaklawn push to quash competition was too strong. With a majority of the House on board the keno ban, it might have seemed a bit heavy-handed for his Rules Committee to just kill the bill in the face of majority support in both houses
This way, nothing changes in the short run. That’s an important victory, if not a definitive one, for Oaklawn. Had the keno games gotten underway in September, they’d have been just about impossible to roll back.
At last check, only the complete ban legislation had been introduced in the Senate. But a companion bill will be filed in the House. I’m guessing it will include the sunset.
I understand Republican Rep. Stephanie Malone will carry the House version of the bill.
UPDATE: The House bill is in. Republican Charlie Collins, not Malone, is the lead House sponsor. It sunsets March 13. It’s joined by Senate sponsors of the game ban so it looks like a done deal.
But don’t forget: The days of lobbyists being able to count votes and count on lawmakers staying fixed are long over, people on both sides say.
It IS clear that Rep. Mark Perry’s threat to take back online gambling from Oaklawn slowed their anti-lottery express a little bit.