The group pushing to expand casino gambling in Arkansas has announced the certification of its ballot petitions by the secretary of state’s office.

Needing 84,859 signatures, the office found 99,988 valid signatures for what will become Issue 4.


It would allow two new casinos, one each in Jefferson and Pope counties, and finally legalize and expand gambling options at existing casinos at the Oaklawn and Southland racetracks. Sports wagering as well as regular table games, as opposed to electronic games, would be legal. Two Indian tribes are providing major financial muscle for the amendment.

From a release from the group:


“Arkansas voters will have a choice on Nov. 6 to keep our money in our state by approving Issue Four,” said Nate Steel, counsel for Driving Arkansas Forward, the coalition of business and political leaders from across Arkansas that supports expanded gaming. “Right now, about 30 percent of our state’s residents regularly visit casinos outside Arkansas. It’s time to keep that money where we live to support our economy, improve our infrastructure and create new jobs. We appreciate the Secretary of State’s Office for its efficient work through the time-consuming process of verifying voter signatures, and we are especially thankful for the tens of thousands of voters who have made it clear that they want Issue Four on the ballot.”

About 140,000 total signatures were submitted to the Secretary of State.

Steel said Driving Arkansas Forward will focus in the coming months in increasing voter awareness of Issue Four and the overall benefit of keeping entertainment and hospitality dollars in the state. The group will also remind voters that a “yes” vote on Issue Four will settle the ongoing casino debate once and for all.

“This amendment is the state’s best opportunity to create a transparent and equitable gaming structure free from all the pitfalls and drawbacks of casino measures in the past,” Steel said. “History tells us that we’ll keep seeing legally defective proposals from out-of-state special interests over and over again unless we act now to establish a fair model to provide entertainment opportunities in four distinct regions of Arkansas and create additional revenue to pay for our most important needs.”

Steel made no mention of a past selling point — that the tax revenue COULD be used for highways. The state Highway Commission has objected because the tax revenue is dedicated strictly to state general revenue, not earmarked for highways. The group has changed its logo to omit a reference to roads. The logo at top now appears on the group’s webpage. Also gone was a nonsensical reference to lower taxes. The measure WILL lower the tax currently imposed on Oaklawn and Southland, but not to anyone else.

UPDATE: Gov. Asa Hutchinson said today that he opposed the amendment, as did the religious right-wing Family Council.