Arkansas may soon be welcoming up to four fully-fledged casinos after Tuesday reportedly saw voters in the southern state narrowly approve Issue 4 as part of the ‘mid-term elections’.

Constitutional amendment passed:

According to a Wednesday report from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper, the verdict has altered the state’s constitution in order to allow Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in the city of Hot Springs along with West Memphis’ Southland Park Gaming and Racing to transform into full-scale casinos from Wednesday. Both facilities had previously offered electronic skill games under a 2005 state law but will now purportedly be able to enlarge their portfolios to include sportsbetting and table games such as poker and blackjack.

Pair of new facilities:

In addition, the passage of Issue 4 (pdf) is to reportedly see the Arkansas Racing Commission authorize one casino each for the more rural Pope County and Jefferson County so long as the prospective operators agree to pay a $250,000 ‘license application fee’ and can ‘demonstrate experience in conducting casino gaming’. The amendment moreover purportedly mandates that the coming facilities be located ‘within two miles’ of the communities of Russellville and Pine Bluff respectively with future licensees required to ‘submit either a letter of support from the county judge or a resolution from the county quorum court’.

Tolerable taxes:

Regarding tax, the passage of Issue 4 reportedly means that the four coming casinos are to have their first $150,000 in annual net gaming receipts assessed at a rate of 13% with any subsequent earnings subjected to a 20% duty. What’s more, the venues are to purportedly be able to operate around-the-clock and serve alcohol to those over the age of 21 even if they are located in a ‘dry’ community or county.

Result is ‘really exciting’:

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Tuesday saw 54.09% of voters approve Issue 4 against some 45.91% that had cast their ballot in opposition. Despite this close margin, Alex Gray from the pro-gambling Driving Arkansas Forward committee purportedly described the verdict as ‘really exciting’ because the state will now be able to create more jobs, foster economic development and retain tax dollars that have been going to casinos in the neighboring jurisdictions of Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Opposition laments lack of money:

However, not everyone agrees and Jerry Cox, President for the anti-casino Family Council Action Committee, reportedly told the newspaper that it had become ‘next to impossible to win’ the debate due to the fact that the pro-gambling lobby had spent close to $7 million to advertise the benefits of passing Issue 4.

Cox to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette…

“We would have mounted an aggressive campaign if we had the money but people didn’t step up and provide the money.”

Gubernatorial acquiescence:

The newspaper reported that Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson had been one of the most outspoken critics of Issue 4 amid worries that its passage could lead to the state receiving approximately $36 million fewer tax dollars for 2020. The just re-elected Republican purportedly told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he continues ‘to have great concern over the immediate and negative impact on the state’s budget’ but now intends to respect the decision of voters.

Hutchinson to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette…

“Time will tell as to what this means for our state and it remains to be seen as to whether the communities affected will consent to the gambling initiative.”