I encountered a canvasser today seeking signatures on a petition for a constitutionql amendment to expand machine gambling in Arkansas.

The canvasser is working for Arcade Arkansas, a committee we mentioned in August.

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When it filed papers, the committee said its aim was to authorize coin-operated amusement machines within the state of Arkansas to support the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery with a 20 percent tax on money spent. Gambling machines, in other words, though not a straight cash in/cash out operation.

The proposal submitted to the secretary of state said some skill would be required of the player and winners would accrue points redeemable for non-cash merchandise, but also for lottery tickets. The last can be converted into cash after a fashion by playing them for prizes at the posted odds (not particularly favorable). Points can’t be traded for cash, alcohol or tobacco products.

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Slot machines are legal only in the three existing casinos and one more in Pope County, once it is in business. But coin-operated machines jingle all over Arkansas, despite efforts to stamp them out. The Chuck E. Cheese law allows for small prizes for play of arcade games and a special law engineered by former Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson opened the door to bigger prizes at Dave and Buster’s arcades. Hutchinson did work as a legislator trying to advance the cause of amusement machine. He’s now awaiting sentencing for taking bribes from other sources of nominal legal fees — a health care company ad an orthodontist.

The Arcade effort is serious, as indicated by paid canvassers. New state law requires a registration process before paid canvassers can hit the streets.

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According to a report filed Dec. 16, Arcade Arkansas has raised almost $239,000 and spent almost $235,000 since filing organizational papers in August. Signature deadline for the 2020 election is in July.

Major contributors (more than $60,000 in the last monthly report) are Kuram Maqsood of Little Rock, CEO of Dark Knight Vending; Anwarali Charania of Little Rock, president of Shariq Investment, and Nourin Charania of Stockbridge, Ga., CEO of Falcon Amusements. Anwarali Charania put in more than $60,000 in October. Maqsood and Nourin Charania accounted for about $24,000 in September. In August, about $90,000 was contributed – $5,000 from Maqsood; $40,000 from Nourin Charania; $15,000 from Anwarali Charania, and more than $15,000 from Zoheb Charania of Little Rock, director of operations for Shariq Investment Inc.

They’ve been spending money on background checks for canvassers and with a petition consulting firm.

 

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