Voters will soon determine the fate of four proposed casinos in Arkansas.
Issue 4 would authorize a casino to be operated by the Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs, another by Southland Racing Corp. in West Memphis, and to operators to be determined in Jefferson and Pope counties. Information on the ballot issue in this article is from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
The proposed constitutional amendment would allow each of the four casinos to operate at any hour on any day. The casinos would be allowed to sell alcoholic beverages at any time of operation, even if the casino is in a dry, alcohol-prohibition county.
Pope County is the only site of the four proposed casinos that is a dry county.
Under the proposal, the Arkansas Racing Commission would regulate licensing and operation of the casinos.
The constitutional amendment would require the Arkansas General Assembly to enact laws and appropriate funds for the commission. The commission would be required to fund and work with the Department of Human Services to implement and administer compulsive gambling disorder educational programs.
Casinos in Jefferson and Pope counties must be within two miles of Pine Bluff and Russellville.
The proposed amendment would require greyhound- and horse-raising operators – Southland and Oaklawn – to contribute to racing purses and awards and for Southland to set aside money for capital improvements to its racing facilities.
It sets tax rates on net receipts and sets how revenue is distributed.
Licensees would be required to operate a casino for as long as they hold a license.
Supporters, according to the Cooperative Extension Service, include Driving Arkansas Forward, Arkansas Jobs Coalition and It’s Our Turn. Opponents listed by the Extension Service include Family Action Council Committee BQC2, Ensuring Arkansas’ Future and Citizens for a Better Pope County a/k/a Citizens for Local Choice.
Each of the four cities and counties would also receive a prescribed share of revenue:
13 percent on the first $150 million in gambling revenue, and at 20 percent on revenues greater than $150 million.
Fifty-five percent of revenue would go to the Arkansas general revenue fund; 19.5 percent to the host city, 17.5 percent to the commission and eight percent to the host county.
Alex Gray, an attorney for Driving Arkansas Forward, told the Voice the state’s share of revenue would go into the state’s general fund, although an earlier draft called for funds to go toward Arkansas’ highways. Gray was responding to a statement from the Arkansas Highway Commission that said funds would not go to highways.
Gray said “it remains the group’s hope” that the legislature would appropriate the funds for highways. The commission’s August statement: “Citizens need to understand that the proposal does not direct any of the revenue to be generated from the casinos to our state’s highways, despite what some of the promotional ads are implying. The Highway Commission has no position on gambling in Arkansas. The fact is, the proposed Constitutional amendment regarding casino gambling is not a highway funding proposal.”
The group’s response: “This attack on a citizens’ ballot proposal by a state agency is unprecedented, unfair and inaccurate. Driving Arkansas Forward advertisements cite facts and make clear these additional tax revenues could be used for roads and highways, and it is the organization’s primary goal to make sure our policymakers dedicate more money for highways.”
Voters will see only the popular name and title of each of five ballot proposals.
The complete text is available at