CASINO CONCEPT: From Mississippi promoters.

The Mississippi casino group that wants to get a license in Pope County is dangling the promise of $1 million a year in local charitable contributions if it’s successful.

The latest release from a local PR firm:

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Gulfside Casino Partnership today said it would establish the Pope County Education Foundation if granted a license in the state. The Arkansas-based nonprofit would be funded by tax-deductible contributions, including a $20-million commitment from River Valley Casino, Gulfside’s proposed $250-million project in Pope County.

“We are excited to announce our continued commitment to Pope County,” said Terry Green, co-owner of Gulfside. “In addition to our plans for River Valley Casino, which include a hotel, conference center and performing arts venue, this foundation would amplify our investment in the region well beyond our resort.”

If established, the foundation would receive a $1-million annual contribution from River Valley Casino for 20 years once it commences operations. Its funds would be distributed to local public schools for academic programming, student experiences, facility upgrades and other educational initiatives as directed by the five Pope County school districts.

Pending approval by the Arkansas Racing Commission, the proposed River Valley Casino would create more than 1,500 permanent hospitality jobs for a total payroll of $60.5 million. It would support more than $28 million in gaming taxes to the county, state and Arkansas Racing Commission for the live racing purse and awards fund, as well as ad valorem, property, sales and other traditional taxes.

The state Racing Commission is to meet Thursday to propose rules for casino regulation under newly adopted Amendment 100, which provides for existing casinos in Hot Springs and West Memphis and new ones in Jefferson and Pope counties. Significant opposition has arisen to a casino in Pope County, with no current local official as yet ready to provide the needed approval for a casino there. A lawsuit is also pending since a lame duck county judge signed a letter expressing support for the Mississippi group.

Other potential operators are undoubtedly ready to match charitable promises. The Cherokee and Chocataw tribes, which operate casinos elsewhere, have been among those expressing interest.

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Whether $1 million will offset the damage done annually by problem gambling is a good question. Casinos typically are highly profitable and Amendment 100 cut dramatically the prevailing tax on betting at casinos.  The Gulfside group anticipates $120 million in gambling revenue in the beginning.

The Oaklawn Foundation says it has been donating $750,000 to $1 million a year to charitable causes in the Hot Springs area with proceeds from its casino.

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