- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A group of legislators said Friday they hope to introduce a bill to block the Arkansas lottery from offering fast-paced Keno gambling, if the governor allows it as part of an expected summer special session.

Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, is leading the effort and said he just completed a bill that he will introduce if Gov. Mike Beebe permits it.

“We just want to be able to come with a bill in place so he would know what he’s putting on the call,” Hickey said.

Legislators are planning to ask Beebe to call a special session so they can address problems with health insurance plans for public school employees.

A Beebe spokesman said Friday that no one had approached the governor yet about the lottery issue.

“We’re still waiting to see a proposal on public school employee health insurance,” spokesman Matt DeCample said.

The Arkansas Lottery Commission has approved the start Keno, a bingo-style game that would have draws every six minutes, which players would track on monitors. The commission has been under pressure to increase sales, which have been falling and making less money available for college scholarships.

Hickey and other legislators - Republican Sens. Jonathan Dismang of Searcy and Michael Lamoureux of Russellville among them - say the Keno plan comes too close to having interactive video terminals, which are banned in the legislation that put the voter-approved lottery in place.

Lottery director Bishop Woosley said he intends to go ahead with a planned launch of the Keno monitors.

“It’s their (the Legislature’s) call. We’re going to proceed as though we’re implementing it (Keno) in September. If they ban it, we’re going to circle back around and start over,” Woosley said.

Lamoureux said he understands the Lottery Commission is trying to increase money for scholarships and he wants to maintain a good working relationship with the panel. But he said the monitors go beyond what voters approved.

Dismang said a bill banning monitor games would clear up any ambiguity about the intent of the lottery law.

Beebe has long maintained a policy of calling a special session only if passage of items is all but assured.

“I know there’s a lot of support (for the anti-Keno bill) but I don’t know if we’re at that point yet,” Lamoureux said.

Hickey said the monitor games go far beyond what voters were expecting when they approved the lottery law.

“I don’t believe that whenever the voters put this in place that they envisioned that you would have gambling machines with screens throughout the entire state and in every city,” Hickey said.

Woosley said the lottery would not directly lose money if the Legislature blocks Keno but that staff time spent establishing the new game will have been wasted.


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