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.
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.
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.
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.