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State Journal: Taking a gamble; Hospitality

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State legislators in Oklahoma would like to help out schools that raise extra funds through raffles. But they fear that kindergartners selling chances to win a cake could lead to slot machines.

The state attorney general issued a warning to schools last year, informing them that raffles violate state law.

And last month, Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader warned in a letter that under federal law, states that permit "Class III'' gambling of any kind cannot prohibit American Indian tribes from engaging in similar activities. Since both lotteries and casino games fall into that category, he said, a pending proposal for a state lottery could allow Oklahoma tribes to run gambling halls.

Even allowing school raffles "is a danger,'' Mr. Leader wrote, suggesting that the state instead remove existing exceptions in the law for raffles held by chambers of commerce or military groups.

That worried legislators considering a bill that would permit raffles by schools.

The House Rules Committee approved the bill last month. But its sponsor, Rep. Don Kinnamon, said that before bringing the measure up for a floor vote, he will try to work out language that would not open up commercial gambling.

"It's not my intention to open up Class III gaming,'' he said. "I just want to help the schools.''

Hawaii's state-run school system is unique in the nation, and its state board of education apparently enjoys a supportive relationship with the business community of the sort that is usually found at the local level.

The board is currently reviewing applications for the vacant superintendent's post, and only eight of the 46 applicants are from Hawaii. That means the board probably will have to fly in some of the finalists, and there is no provision in the budget for that.

The Associated Press reported that the board had decided to "aggressively pursue'' donations.

But Greg Knudsen, a spokesman for the board, said the panel simply agreed to accept unsolicited offers of aid from airlines and hotels. Those offers, he said, came after the board's brief discussion of the financial question was reported in the local media.

"There is a concern that money not be taken from instructional funds,'' he said. "But we're a $1-billion-a-year operation, and we haven't even looked into what might be available.''--JULIE A. MILLER

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