Governor’s Veto Highlights Gambling Issue

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto of a law that would have stripped a state agency of its power to enforce certain gambling laws highlights an issue law enforcement deals with across the state.

On Wednesday, at two different gas stations in Faulkner County, we found video slot machines being operated in plain sight.

“The problem is this violates the public policy of the state of Arkansas,” said 20th Judicial District Prosecutor Cody Hiland. 

During the legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill to stop Alcoholic Beverage Control from enforcing some gambling laws at places where alcohol is also sold.

But in a letter announcing his veto, Hutchinson said it “would require law enforcement officers to ignore illegal conduct.”

“The idea that an agency that enforces the law very well has its wings clipped just because it enforces the law is antithetical to everything we stand for,” Hiland said.

In dry counties like Faulkner, enforcement falls to local law authorities.

Employees at one of the places we visited told us the games were legal because you can only use winnings at the store.

“You can’t give things of value in exchange for a game of chance,” Hiland said. “That’s what’s happening here.”

At the other gas station, we were told to call back and speak with a manager.

But when we did, no one was made available.

When the ABC bill was making its way through the legislature, supporters said they were seeking to stop harassment of local businesses and nonprofits.

Hiland is promising to enforce the law in his district which includes the operations we saw. He says that is if lawmakers want them to stop, they can make it happen.

“If the legislature has a problem with the gambling enforcement, they need to make gambling legal,” he said.
 

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