LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A Christian college that had exempted Arkansas' lottery from a student gambling ban reversed course on Friday and said students can't buy the tickets after all.
Harding University President David Burks said now the school will include the lottery in its rule prohibiting students from gambling on or off campus. Administrators at Harding, a liberal arts Christian school in Searcy affiliated with the Church of Christ, had decided in August to make an exception for the lottery in its gambling prohibition.
But Burks said Friday at the school's daily chapel services that he believes making the exception was a mistake.
"My intention was to express in our policy the reality that it will be very difficult to enforce any prohibition against the lottery," Burks said in a statement released by the school. "In an attempt to avoid one appearance of hypocrisy, I made a decision that has itself come to be viewed as hypocritical."
Arkansas launched its lottery on Sept. 28 with the sale of scratch-off tickets and the state will begin selling Powerball tickets Oct. 31. The games are expected to raise $100 million annually for college scholarships.
The scholarships posed a problem for private colleges affiliated with churches around the state, which often require students to follow a code of conduct on and off campus. Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia has said it considers the lottery to be included in its ban against gambling.
John Brown University in Siloam Springs, a private nondenominational Christian college, strongly discourages students from gambling and bans it on campus. But the university's officials have said there likely would be little punishment for students who did play lottery tickets on campus.
Arkansas State University, the University of Central Arkansas and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville prohibit students from gambling on university property, but officials with the schools have said they believe the ban would only apply to buying tickets on campus, not actually scratching them off there.
Burks said that students caught playing the lottery would face at least a written or verbal reprimand under the school's policy.
"It is important to me that all people, both here and away from campus, know that Harding University stands firmly against gambling," Burks said.
Lottery Director Ernie Passailaigue declined to comment on the school's policy, but questioned how the school would know if students played the game off campus.
"I don't know how they'll enforce it, but it's their decision on what policies they have," Passailaigue said.