Casi­nos, wages: two di­verse choices on your bal­lot

The Weekly Vista - - Opinion - MAYLON RICE

The fi­nal two ques­tions on the 2018 Gen­eral Elec­tion bal­lot both con­cern money.

Casino gam­bling dol­lars are con­tained in Ques­tion 4 while the de­bate of man­dat­ing a cal­en­dar of raises to the state’s min­i­mum wage to $11 by Jan­uary 2021, is found in Ques­tion 5.

It is pos­si­ble that these two ques­tions are sleep­ers to the vot­ers, de­spite the gaudy, lav­ish and celebrity-filled pro­mo­tion for the casino ques­tion as seen on tele­vi­sion sets and ra­dio broad­casts of late.

A look at both ques­tions be­gins now.

• Ques­tion 4: The casino ques­tion.

The bal­lot ti­tle reads as fol­lows: An Amend­ment to re­quire four li­censes to be is­sued for Casino Gam­ing in Casi­nos, one each in Crit­ten­den (South­land Rac­ing Cor­po­ra­tion), Gar­land (to Oak­lawn Jockey Club Inc.) and Pope and Jef­fer­son Coun­ties. In lay­man’s lan­guage:

Four li­censes would be is­sued, two of those to South­land Rac­ing Cor­po­ra­tion in West Mem­phis, i.e. the Dog Track; and Oak­lawn Jockey Club Inc. of Hot Springs, the Horse Track. Both of these venues al­ready have what the state calls “In­stant Rac­ing,” in other words there are elec­tronic games to be played as gam­bling. What this will do is al­low hu­man gam­bling, cards, dice and other games of gam­bling skills at Hot Springs and West Mem­phis. Also two li­censes will be is­sued for Pope County (Russellville) and Jef­fer­son County (Pine Bluff).

Both the Jef­fer­son and Pope Li­censes must be within two miles of the city lim­its of Pine Bluff and Russellville, as writ­ten into the act. Since Pope County is a “dry” county, the pas­sage of this act will al­low the Pope casino to serve on-premises al­co­hol with­out a vote of the cit­i­zens of Pope County. That was also writ­ten into the Amend­ment. Imag­ine that.

There is an ex­ten­sive divi­sion of the gam­bling pro­ceeds and how they shall be cal­cu­lated and ap­plied to state govern­ment.

My take on it: This is a boon­dog­gle to try, once again, to bring in casino gam­bling and in the Pope County case, bring in on-premises liquor con­sump­tion with­out the pub­lic vote. I do not like for­mer OU coach Barry Switzer, on one hand a shame­less shill for the Casi­nos in Ok­la­homa try­ing to wax philo­soph­i­cal about why Arkansas needs casino gam­bling rev­enues. He is, af­ter all, a happy cit­i­zen of Ok­la­homa now, not the Boot­leg­ger’s Boy from Cros­sett or as he puts it a foot­ball player from Fayetteville. Did any­body no­tice he choked on say­ing Univer­sity of Arkansas in his com­mer­cials?

I’ll vote No on this ques­tion. Both race tracks have enough gam­bling go­ing on of the me­chan­i­cal kind with rev­enues to be jeal­ous of un­der our cur­rent laws.

• Ques­tion No. 5 – An Act to In­crease the Arkansas Min­i­mum Wage. The bal­lot ti­tle reads: An Act to amend the Arkansas Code con­cern­ing the state min­i­mum wage; the Act would raise the cur­rent State min­i­mum wage from $8.50 to $9.25 per hour by Jan. 1, 2019; would raise the wage to $10 per hour by Jan. 1, 2020 and to $11.00 per hour by Jan. 1, 2021.

My take on it. At first blush it sounds great. Peo­ple work­ing at the min­i­mum wage by the hour need more in­come. But what will hap­pen to the small busi­nesses that have to ab­sorb these in­creases man­dated by this act. Will this re­ally work in a ru­ral, un­de­vel­oped state like Arkansas. Those mak­ing min­i­mum wage cur­rently, as em­ploy­ees, are they re­ally trained and have the job skills to match that $9.25, $10 and $11 per hour man­dated by this act.

I’ll still be pon­der­ing this when I en­ter the booth.

And I hope the dis­sec­tion of these five ques­tions

over the past two weeks have helped you make up your minds.

Please vote on Nov. 6.

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