The secretary of state’s office has determined sufficient signatures were gathered to put a casino gambling amendment on the November election ballot.
Constitutional amendments needed 84,859 signatures to qualify for the ballot this year. The secretary of state said it had verified 100,977.
Arkansas Wins is the name of a committee including several Missouri business people and backed by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma that has a proposal to give its investors the right to build casinos in Boone, Washington and Miller counties. The Cherokees have an agreement to operate a Washington County casino if approved.
No formal opposition has emerged yet, though religious groups that have traditionally fought gambling measures can be expected to speak up. Not evident so far have been representatives of existing gambling in Arkansas — the casinos at Oaklawn and Southland Park — that have fought past attempts to expand legal gambling in Arkansas.
If pending legal action removes none of them, Arkansas voters will have seven proposals to consider this fall. You can read them all here, including full text of the casino amendment.
The gambling amendment sets an 18% tax on casino revenue after payouts to gamblers , a 1.5 percent tax for the
county cities in which the casino operates and a .5 percent tax for a city county.
News release from Arkansas Wins:
“We’re grateful to the 100,977 registered Arkansas voters that joined with our campaign to get this pro-growth, pro-jobs issue on the ballot this November,” said Robert Coon, spokesperson for Arkansas Wins in 2016 and Arkansas Winning Initiative Inc. “This amendment will create thousands of good paying jobs, generate tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue, increase tourism, and stimulate our state and local economies.”
In June, Arkansas Wins in 2016 announced that it will partner with Cherokee Nation Entertainment for a new state of the art casino, hotel and entertainment venue in Washington County if Issue 5 passes. Cherokee Nation Entertainment is the Cherokee Nation’s wholly-owned corporate entity that manages the tribe’s gaming, hospitality, entertainment and retail ventures. In the most recent fiscal year, Cherokee Nation Entertainment employed more than 4,000 people, providing a payroll of $182.7 million, invested $45.4 million into job creation and business development efforts and paid $28.4 million in gaming fees to the state of Oklahoma.
“In addition to having a statewide impact, Washington County, Miller County, and Boone County in particular stand to benefit tremendously from passage of this amendment as it will bring jobs, tax revenue, and tourism back from bordering states, and provide those communities with new gaming, hotel, entertainment, and restaurant options,” stated Coon. “We’re excited that Arkansans will have the opportunity to vote on this important amendment this November.”
UPDATE: A group with similar leadership that fought a 2012 casino measures (and had financial support from Southland in that fight) is ready to fight again. The release from Protect Arkansas’ Values:
“We are opposing this amendment because it is a bad deal for Arkansas. No state has ever allowed something this outrageous,” said Chuck Lange, former Arkansas Sheriffs Association president and Chairman of Protect Arkansas’ Values – Stop Casinos Now.
“We are concerned that there is no accountability in this amendment and no protections for the people of Arkansas. There are no mechanisms for local governments to object to the placement of casinos in their community. There are no real regulatory restrictions for these casinos, which would allow them to subvert local law and do whatever they please,” continued Lange.
“We believe that Arkansans should fully understand what this amendment will do to damage our state and we will be working to educate voters on these problems over the next couple months.” concluded Lange.