LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas Supreme Court rules Issue 4, casino amendment, will remain on the November ballot.
Issue 4, if approved by a majority of voters, would amend the Arkansas Constitution to issue four casino licenses in Crittenden, Garland, Pope and Jefferson counties.
Jim Knight of Pope County, individually and on behalf of Citizens for Local Choice, brought the original action to challenge the sufficiency of the ballot title with regard to Issue No. 4, which provides for the issuance of four casino licenses in the state.
By the complaint, Knight sought to urge Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin from certifying any ballots cast for the proposed amendment at the November 6 general election.
The initiated measure is sponsored by Don Tilton, both individually and on behalf of Arkansas Jobs Coalition–a ballot question committee.
The following statement is attributable to Nate Steel, counsel for Driving Arkansas Forward.
Nate Steel, counsel for Driving Arkansas Forward: “These decisions clear the way for Arkansas voters to add almost $6 billion to our state’s economy and create 6,000 new jobs through a fair, measured and merit-based expansion of casino gaming. We are grateful the Supreme Court upheld the Attorney General’s certification that Issue 4 is clear and understandable to voters. We are confident Arkansans will vote to keep casino entertainment dollars in our state when they cast their ballots on Nov. 6.”
The Arkansas Supreme Court made their decision based on amendment 7, as codified in article 5, section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution, section 2 (D)(4) of amendment 80, and Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 6-5 (a), according to released court documents.
The measure would not create four new casinos. Not exactly. Two of the four licenses would go to Southland Racing in West Memphis and Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs, both of which already operate gaming facilities. Their licenses would be automatic.
The other two gaming facilities in or around Russelville and Pine Bluff would require applications to be submitted, fees to be paid and experience in the industry to be demonstrated.
As we’ve learned with medical marijuana, there will be plenty of people stand in the way of its implementation even if Issue 4 is passed by an overwhelming number of voters.
And as with any issue, there are valid points to be made by those on both ends of the spectrum.
Those who would like to see this measure passed will argue that legalized casino gambling brings jobs to Arkansas. People will spend money in those casinos. Those casinos will, then, use that money to hire employees. Nationwide, there are nearly 2 million casino-related jobs.
They’ll also tell you that casinos attract tourists. And that’s true, too. If you don’t believe me, go and observe all the grandmas loading onto the Grey House bus to head across the Mississippi River to give their money to a Mississippi casino.
The same can be said for everyone heading west to Oklahoma casinos. For what little gambling we do have in Arkansas, more than $455 million was collected in revenue in 2016, alone.
To the east and west, north and south, there are gambling states bordering Arkansas. And more than a quarter of Arkansans polled say they travel to these states to partake to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
According to those advocating for Issue 4, legalized casino gambling in Arkansas would keep Arkansas dollars in Arkansas.