One of Idaho's most prominent lawyers, Eugene Thomas of Boise, says he believes the lottery proposal before Idaho voters in November will open the door to casino-type gambling.
"I think the people are being misled," about the true intent of the proposed constitutional amendment," Thomas said Thursday, at a news conference. "I feel I have an obligation to speak up."Thomas is the head of a Boise law firm and former president of the American Bar Association. He said he is not affiliated with Consider, an anti-lottery organization, and is not a member of any church organization or group against the lottery.
Earlier in the week, Attorney General Jim Jones, whose office reviewed the lottery proposal when it went to the Legislature, made a similar announcement.
In 1986 Idaho voters overwhelmingly approved a lottery initiative, but it was blocked by lawsuits. Voters in November will decide a proposal to remove a flat ban on state lotteries from the Idaho Constitution.
The Legislature already has approved laws allowing a state lottery to go into operation if voters approve the amendment. Included is a $1 million line of credit to start the lottery.
Thomas said the lottery legislation was badly drawn and is misleading.
"This is one of the worst legal proposals ever put to the people of Idaho during my lifetime," said Thomas. He called it "an open door" policy toward casino gambling.
But Larry LaRocco, chairman of Idahoans for the Lottery, said Thomas is doing people a disservice by coming forth almost two years after the lottery question was decided, raising new objections.
"He's doing a disservice to the 60 percent of the people who voted for the lottery in 1986 by waiting two years to make this announcement," said LaRocco.
"I regret that he did not testify at the hearings before the Legislature when the constitutional amendment was receiving full and complete testimony from concerned citizens," LaRocco said.
"If he had volunteered his legal expertise at that point, pro-lottery advocates would not be faced with this type of charge."
LaRocco said he and other lottery advocates "would like to go on the record to say pro-lottery advocates are absolutely against casino-type gambling. Groups such as mine have been formed to follow through with the wishes of 60 percent of the people from the 1986 votes.
"Attempting to associate the lottery with gambling interests is a phony issue and Idahoans recognize it as such," LaRocco said.
Thomas said a provision in the amendment allows charitable organizations to conduct games of chance. He said that would allow almost any organization, even those not based in Idaho, to apply for a gambling license and conduct casino-type gambling.
The amendment says such games must be operated under applicable state law, but Thomas said he did not think the Idaho Legislature could be trusted to restrict such operations.