Oklahoma casino operator Cherokee Nation Entertainment is hoping to expand into neighboring Arkansas next year to operate one of the three new casinos being envisioned by a proposed constitutional amendment.
A group calling itself Arkansas Wins In 2016 is currently in the process of collecting enough signatures to have the planned casino legislation placed before voters in November. To aid its efforts, the organization has signed a deal with the Catoosa-based Native American enterprise that would see the tribe run the new casino being planned for Washington County in northwest Arkansas.
Cherokee Nation Entertainment already owns and operates nine casinos in Oklahoma while, if approved, the ballot measure would also see gambling facilities established in Miller County in the southwest of the state and Boone County in the Ozark Mountains. The wished-for ballot measure seeks voter consent to change the state’s constitution by having the name of three private companies written in as Arkansas’ sole casino operators.
In addition to legalizing the trio of new casinos, the proposed amendment would establish a five-member regulatory commission appointed by the governor while requiring the gambling venues to pay an 18% net gambling tax.
“Our intention from the outset of this campaign has been for the casinos authorized by this amendment to be operated by well-established [and] credible firms in the gaming industry,” Robert Coon from Arkansas Wins In 2016 told the Associated Press news service. “In addition to creating new opportunities for jobs, tourism and economic development, Cherokee Nation Entertainment brings a wealth of experience and a proven track record in the gaming industry to this effort.”
Gamblers in the southern state can already enjoy electronic casino games such as video poker at Oaklawn Park Race Track in Hot Springs and West Memphis’ Southland Park Gaming And Racing while Arkansas Wins In 2016 has until July 8 to gather the nearly 85,000 signatures that are required in order to place the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in November.
“It’s been an interest of ours for many years to leverage our nearly 30 years’ experience in gaming, hospitality and entertainment into markets outside of Oklahoma,” said Shawn Slaton, Chief Executive Officer for Cherokee Nation Businesses, which is the parent of Cherokee Nation Entertainment, told the Associated Press. “This commercial gaming venture is a natural evolution of our business model that will be good for the state, northwest Arkansas and the Cherokee Nation.”