NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Lottery Commission approved rules Thursday for use of 100 vending machines in retail outlets, though opponents vowed to continue to try to have the machines declared illegal.
Lottery players could find the machines in stores as soon as next month.
The commission conducted a public hearing before the vote and listened as 21 of 23 people spoke in opposition to the machines. The panel amended its rules to require government-issued identification in order to buy tickets from the machines and to ensure the machines are in sight of a store employee.
To buy from the machines, a customer will have to swipe an ID card through a card reader.
Arkansas Family Council director Jerry Cox complained that the commission was putting a flawed set of rules into play.
"The fight against the lottery vending machines is not over," Cox said.
The rules must be reviewed by the Legislative Lottery Oversight Committee, which meets Thursday. Cox said he would appeal to legislators to delay use of the machines until the full Legislature can consider the matter when it convenes in January.
Sen. David Johnson, co-chair of the oversight committee, said the role of the panel is simply to review the rules, take note of any areas of concern and listen to public comment.
"That's really the extent of our review. I have no doubt it will be concluded Thursday," Johnson said.
Arkansas Scholarship Lottery director Ernie Passailaigue told commissioners that of the 44 states, plus Washington, D.C., that have lotteries, 33 use vending machines and three others are planning to do so. He said few have an age verification requirement.
Opponents expressed concern that the commission could deploy hundreds more of the machines, but Passailaigue said any new machines would have to be approved in a public budget hearing.
"There will never be additional machines without commission approval," he said.
The lottery raised $383 million last fiscal year for college scholarships, which the Higher Education Department is still working to award to students.
"We've made a difference in a lot of students' lives," said Commissioner Joe White of Conway.
Cox told the commission that the Legislature had given the commission too much responsibility.
"Delay this until January," Cox said. "Put some of this back on the Legislature."
Cox argued that the machines will make it easy for children to gamble, despite the ID requirement. He said the rules don't require store clerks to watch the machines while they are in use.
Passailaigue said the commission has had only a handful of complaints of underage gambling since the lottery was launched in September.
Commissioners said they could further amend the rules if necessary.
Cox also took issue with a provision that allows for continuing play, in which people can receive credits for winning tickets and keep playing, making them even more attractive to compulsive gamblers.
Many members of the public who addressed the panel spoke of their opposition to the lottery itself, which was approved by voters in 2008.
Tara Bond of Sherwood, likened lottery vending machines to cigarette vending machines. She said she started smoking at age 13 and remained hooked for nine years. She said she'd walk to a motel near her house and use her allowance to buy from a cigarette machine in a breezeway, never raising an objection from employees. She said cigarette machines should have been illegal then.
"The government enabled my addiction," she said. "You would be doing the same. I don't think you guys realize how easy it is to get a fake ID."
A number of people complained that the commission did not engage the public enough as it purchased the machines and planned to deploy them without first holding a public hearing. The hearing was set after opponents called for one.
"When I heard these machines were already purchased, that seemed a little shady," Dani Martin said.
(Click to display in gallery)