Voters in Arkansas may get a chance to decide if a proposal by a group that would allow as many as three casinos to be built in the state in an effort to raise money for its highways ever sees the November 2018 ballot.
Little Rock-licensed television station THV11 reports that on Friday a proposed constitutional amendment to allow the casinos, and 65 percent of the tax revenues from them to be directed to highway funding, was submitted to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office by Driving Arkansas Forward.
Titled “The Arkansas Casino Gaming and Highway Funding Amendment of 2018,” the effort is reportedly a partnership between the group and the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma. Before supporters can hold a signature drive in an attempt to get the measure on the fall ballot, its language must first be approved by Rutledge.
In May last year, a proposed constitutional amendment in Arkansas to allow casino gambling in the state was rejected by AG Rutledge, who wrote in an opinion that the name of the casino proposal by a Hot Springs resident was misleading and confusing and that it did not explain specifics of licensing.
Representing Driving Arkansas Forward, attorney Nate Steel said, “We’re not talking about some roadside slot machine type place. This is going to be a resort. We expect they would bring convention centers, tourism dollars and a huge shot in the arm to the Arkansas Highway Trust Fund,” according to the news agency.
The allocation of casino tax revenue would include the majority 65 percent going to the Arkansas Highway Fund, approximately 22 percent would go to the host city and the county would receive 10 percent, reports THV11.
Per the amendment, licenses would be granted in locations based on population and economic need. The mayor of the chosen location, along with the county judge would both have to be in agreement and a minimum investment of $100 would be required per casino.
Jefferson County would, via the amendment proposal, be the first choice for a casino, which would be followed by Crittenden County. A possible third license could be issued in the counties of Mississippi, Miller, Crawford, Union, Pope or White.
Steel reportedly said, “These are real resort, tourism type facilities that I think the counties and town will be very proud to have.” He said, “I think we will be breaking dirt in 2019.”
In a statement released by Quapaw Tribe Chairman John Berrey, he said:
The Quapaw Tribe has a longstanding interest in economic development in Arkansas, so we’re eager to partner with a coalition supporting a constitutional amendment to bring gaming to Jefferson County and other counties in Arkansas. Unlike previous measures, this amendment uses a merit-based selection process and puts the decision-making in the hands of local communities. We are excited about the potential opportunity to work with the people of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County to invest in the future to bring more than 1,000 full-time jobs to the Delta and raise much-needed funding for Arkansas’s highway needs.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge reportedly has until next week to either certify or reject the ballot title.
In October last year, a ballot referendum that would have given Arkansas voters the opportunity to decide whether or not casino gambling could be allowed in Boone, Miller and Washington counties, was rejected by the Arkansas Supreme Court.