A group supporting a proposed amendment to Arkansas’s constitution to legalize casinos in three counties has until July 8 to submit voter signatures in order to have the measure included on the November ballot.
Interests from the construction, economic, and financial sectors are backing the efforts of a group named Arkansas Wins in 2016 to get the amendment passed. The group has hired local PR firm, Robert Coon with Impact Management, to help. Coon says money that should be spent in Arkansas is instead flowing out of the state and into casinos in neighboring states. Arkansas Wins 2016 is trying to remedy that but first has to get enough voters to agree. On Wednesday, canvassers were hitting the pavement in an effort to gather the nearly 85,000 signatures required to get the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow casinos in Washington, Boone, and Miller counties on the November ballot.
One person from Missouri and several Arkansans comprise Arkansas Wins in 2016, and their spokesman Coon says the group would like the voters of the state to make the decision of whether or not to allow the casinos in their state. He said, “They’ve been a little frustrated with just seeing our dollars go out of state. So one of the things they want to focus on is how do you return those dollars, those jobs, and tourism back to Arkansas,” according to a KATV Little Rock report.
On June 1, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge approved the wording of the proposed measure after rejecting a ballot proposal submitted by Cal McCastlain, an attorney with the Little Rock-based law firm of Dover Dixon Horne, on May 12 stating that it contained ambiguous language and failed to provide a complete summarization of the proposed amendment within its title. Having only days since then to start gathering voter signatures, Coon said, “We’ve certainly had a few thousand over the last two, two and a half days. I think we’re on track. We’re making a good dent in it on the front end and we hope to pick up from there.”
While there isn’t any official opposition to the measure yet, if it gets on the ballot, a Family Council spokesman says they do plan to oppose it. According to Channel 7 News, a spokesman from Southland Park Gaming & Racing in West Memphis said the decision is up to the voters and at this time they won’t actively oppose the group. The news station did not hear back from Oaklawn Park Racing & Gaming located in Hot Springs.
Included in the proposal is the creation of a governor-appointed five-member state Gaming Commission, which would regulate the casinos and require them to pay the State of Arkansas an 18 percent tax on all gambling proceeds. It also calls for the casinos to be run by three limited liability companies.