Pro-Casino Group in Arkansas Pushing Hard for Legalization

Arkansas State Capitol building cupola (dome) with US flag and Arkansas state flag

While a lot of states are currently pushing to legalize sports betting after the recent Supreme Court decision, groups in Arkansas want casinos to be legalized in the state. One of the pro-casino groups has now raised $1m (£780,000) to lobby for their cause.

History of gambling in Arkansas

Arkansas has traditionally been hesitant to allow much gambling within its borders. The only forms of gambling that have been allowed in the state have been for horse and dog racing. Gambling houses are not allowed, and there are no Indian casinos.

The only exceptions are racinos in Hot Springs and West Memphis. A tiny selection of different casino games is offered at these locations in addition to their horse and dog races. They also have a limited selection of electronic gaming machines, which were allowed in 2005.

In recent times, however, many people have pushed for casinos to be legalized in the state on a wide scale, including resort casinos.

Changes on the horizon?

A number of parties are pushing for legalization of casinos in the state. A petition supporting an amendment to the state constitution received more than 100,000 signatures.

In the November general election, a question on the ballot will allow registered voters to decide on an amendment that would allow new casino licenses to be issued to the areas of Pope County, Jefferson County, Oaklawn Jockey Club, and Southland Racing Corporation.

Both Oaklawn and Southland are allowed to provide electronic games of skill, so they would see their capabilities expanded if this amendment is successful.

Licenses for the other two new casinos would be issued after an application process that would include showing adequate experience of operating profitably in the gambling industry. There are a few other requirements for these casinos to come to fruition, including a letter of support from the mayors in those areas.

The main teams driving this amendment are the Arkansas Jobs Coalition and the Driving Arkansas Forward Committee.

If the amendment goes through, it would be a lucrative move for the state. Estimates indicate that approximately $120m (£90.5m) could be generated annually. About $66m (£52m) of it would go to the state general revenue, $33m (£26m) to the host cities, and $21m (£16.5m) to the two racetracks in question in addition to the casinos.

The state revenue would result from the proposed 13% tax on the first $150m (£113m) earned, with the subsequent revenues being subjected to a 20% tax rate.

In the most recent development, the Driving Arkansas Forward group has managed to raise $1m in July for their operations, mostly from a couple of American Indian tribes that are located in Oklahoma.

This money was needed because the group spent over $1.5m (£1.18m) in July alone and had just over $61,000 (£48,000) left in their coffers before they received this investment. The Downstream Development Authority of the Quapaw Tribe donated $489,000 (£383,000) and the Cherokee Nation Businesses gave $525,300 (£412,000).

They have until August 24 to submit the required signature to get the question on the November ballot. They previously fell just short of their target.

Some of the advocates of this amendment have complained that certain state officials are allegedly trying to sabotage this amendment by discussing flawed statistics in the public and private domain.

State officials had questioned how much revenue could be raised for the state, and some were skeptical about the forecasts. Whatever the case may be, the lobbying groups will attempt to get the required number of signatures before the deadline or else this proposed amendment will not be on the ballot in November.

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