As Arkansas seeks to allow full-fledged casinos throughout the state, residents are given the chance to have their say on the proposed constitutional amendment by voting in the Nov 6 ballot. Early voting has already begun on Oct 22.
Arkansas Racing Commission Would Approve Licenses
Under the proposed constitutional amendment, the Arkansas Racing Commission would oversee casinos and would handle license applications. The commission would be authorized to grant licenses to Southland Racing Corp in Critenden County in West Memphis, as well as franchise holder Oaklawn Jockey Club in Garland County, Hot Springs. Upon approval of licenses, the two clubs would be able to conduct casino gambling at their respective gambling sites.
The Commission would also award licenses to two applications in Pope County and Jefferson County. The applications are required to submit a resolution from the quorum court or a letter of support from the country mayor. Casinos based in the city should also acquire a letter of support from the city mayor.
The amendment would not allow an individual, corporation, association or any other entity to hold more than one license. The Commission would start receiving license applications by June of next year. Four months after Nov 14, the commission is required to start performing relevant duties and adopt new rules.
Proposal to Enable Sports Betting, Tax Levy
The proposed amendment would also permit sports betting, but would not accept wagers on the state lottery.
The new proposal would see 55 per cent of the net casino gambling tax receipts being distributed to state general revenue – 17.5 per cent goes to the Racing Commission which will be used to fund live racing, while 19.5 per cent goes to the city where the casino is located and 8 per cent to the county where the casino is operating from. Net receipts equate to the total receipts subtracted by the winnings paid to customers.
A 13 per cent tax levy will be imposed on the first $150 million of net casino gambling receipts, while those exceeding $150,000,001 would be taxed 20 per cent.
As the Racing Commission would now expand its authority to casinos, the General Assembly would need to appropriate money and approve relevant laws which should be in effect by June 20 2019, for the commission to fulfill its duties smoothly.
Under the proposed amendment, $200,000 would be allocated by the commission for treatment and educational programs that would address compulsive gambling disorder, with the help of the Department of Human Services.
New regulations would authorize licensed operators to sell liquor as well as offer complimentary servings for on-premises consumption within the casino’s operating hours. Individuals under the age of 21 would be banned from casino establishments and would not be allowed to engage in casino gambling.
The amendment, which would take effect on Nov 14 if approved by voters, would define casino gambling as operating, conducting, or maintaining any games that are played with dice, cards, electronic device or any mechanical or electro mechanical equipment for a representative value, e.g. money, checks, property, or credit.
Debate Continues
The proposal received a massive campaign boost in the past month, sponsored by the Arkansas Driving Forward committee. The pro-casino group received donations totaling $4.33 million from both the Quapaw and Cherokee tribes to fund its campaign.
Groups on the other end, such as the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, are critical of the proposed amendment, with Council Director Larry Page saying they are actively encouraging grass-roots church groups and state residents to strongly oppose the proposal.
Critics say the weakest and most desperate of the Arkansans would largely suffer from the harmful effects of gambling.
But supporters are saying the proposal would generate new jobs, boost the economy and contribute massive revenue to the state government.
Counsel for the Arkansas Driving Forward, Nate Steel said Arkansans would benefit from 6000 good-paying jobs, as well as a projected $5.8 billion economic boost in the next 10 years.
Arkansas currently implements rigorous gambling policies which only cover horse and dog racing. Gambling machines as well as gambling houses are not allowed in the state, though two racing clubs operating in West Memphis and Hot Springs have been authorized to offer casino-style games.
Existing laws on bingo, state scholarship lottery, raffles, as well as racetracks’ electronic games of skill will not be impacted by the proposed amendment.

TightPoker Staff

TightPoker Staff

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