Three companies in Arkansas want to open out casinos in Washington, Boone, and Miller counties and are backed by a group called Arkansas Wins in 2016. Together they are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would allow them to develop new casinos. They have received stiff opposition from the Committee to Protect Arkansas’ Values/Stop Casinos Now who filed a lawsuit with the Arkansas Supreme Court late last week.
The committee has now received support from dog and horse tracks in Arkansas who are also against casinos being developed in the three counties. Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis and the Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs have come out in support of the committee who want the Supreme Court to disqualify the proposal from going to the November ballot.
Dog and horse tracks in Arkansas are allowed to offer electronic games of blackjack and video poker at their facilities. These games are classified as games of skill and are allowed as per state law. Casinos in the neighboring counties could end up affecting the revenue of these dog and horse tracks but the owners allege that this wouldn’t be the case and their opposition against the casino proposal was because the proposed amendment would allow casinos in Arkansas to operate in a similar manner as casinos in Oklahoma and Texas.
Troy Keeping, the Southland President and General Manager and Eric Jackson, the Oaklawn General Manager released a joint statement saying that the proposed amendment would open the door to corruption and gambling in unimaginable ways. They also believed the amendment did not allow people in these three communities the right to vote and express what they wanted in their local community.
Arkansas Wins in 2016 has launched a campaign highlighting the fact that the three new casinos would increase employment opportunities in the local community and also increase tourism in the state. The group termed the opposition from the dog and horse tracks as hypocritical and stated that the casinos would be under regulations rolled out by a new commission and would comply with all state laws.
In a statement, Robert Coon, a representative for Arkansas Wins in 2016 said “Arkansas does have a history and tradition when it comes to gaming, unfortunately our tradition is sending jobs, tourism, and tax revenue to other states instead of keeping them here in Arkansas. Oaklawn and Southland know full and well the benefits that Issue 5 will bring to the state, but they’re putting their own profits before the best interests of Arkansans”.
Dog and horse tracks in Arkansas have opposed the legalization of casinos in the past. The committee did not disclose how much funding the tracks have contributed to its opposition campaign.