Third try for gambling initiative

Mother of Las Vegas investor attempts to put proposal on ballot

Posted: Thursday, October 06, 2005

Undaunted by two rejections earlier this year, the mother of a Las Vegas investor is trying for a third time to place an initiative to legalize video gambling halls on the 2006 ballot.

Victoria Scott's previous applications were denied for the same reason: the plan would have created a video gambling monopoly in Anchorage for one person - Scott. Sponsors say they believe they've solved the constitutional problem.

The proposal is to legalize video lottery terminals, machines that allow players to wager on any number of games from video poker to slots and keno.

Earlier versions of the proposal said two "gaming districts" - designated areas where video gambling halls could operate - could not be within 75 miles of each other, and that districts could be formed only in cities with populations over 30,000.

That means one gambling hall would have been allowed in Anchorage. A parcel of land detailed in the proposed law designated where that district would be.

An Associated Press records search revealed that Scott, the main sponsor, has an option to buy that land.

Assistant Attorney General Sarah Felix concluded twice this year the plan was unconstitutional because the monopoly provision amounted to imposing local and special legislation on Anchorage. Lt. Gov. Loren Leman rejected the applications, first in April and again in August.

Co-sponsor and Anchorage attorney Ken Jacobus said the application's newest incarnation, submitted at the end of August, fixes the monopoly issue and that it should pass constitutional muster. The proposal still designates Scott's land as Anchorage's first gaming district, but removes the 75-mile buffer between districts.

That means more than one video gambling hall could be created in Anchorage, but only if the voters approve the additional districts. Juneau and Fairbanks also would be large enough for video gambling halls - also if voters approve.

Leman has turned the application over to the Department of Law for review. Department spokesman Mark Morones said no decision has been made yet, but one is expected soon.

Jacobus said the sponsors still hope to include the initiative in the 2006 election, but acknowledged there may not be enough time to collect the 31,451 voter signatures required before January's legislative session begins.

"That's a massive undertaking," Jacobus said. The next general election is in 2008.

Victoria Scott is the mother of a Shawn Scott, a Las Vegas investor and former racetrack owner in Louisiana, New York and Maine who has pushed for gambling initiatives in other states. Victoria Scott has said her son is not involved in the Alaska gambling initiative.

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