The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the state Racing Commission approved a proposal this week for the Quapaw Nation of Oklahoma to build a casino in Pine Bluff.
The commission also reportedly rejected five bids to build casinos in Russellville — including a proposal by the Cherokee Nation Business of Catoosa, Oklahoma.
Last year the Quapaw Tribe and Cherokee Nation spent millions of dollars passing a state constitutional amendment authorizing four casinos in Arkansas.
The amendment makes Oaklawn in Hot Springs and Southland in West Memphis full-fledged casinos, and it lets the Racing Commission authorize two other casinos to operate in Jefferson County and Pope County respectively.
The amendment was written in such a way that wealthy casino corporations already operating out-of-state have an easier time meeting the criteria for running a casino in Arkansas.
As we’ve written before, counties with gambling in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi continue to struggle with poverty, despite promises that casinos can be an economic boon.
Photo By Ralf Roletschek [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons.
This week attorneys for the Quapaw Nation of Oklahoma submitted an application to the Arkansas Racing Commission to build a casino in Pine Bluff, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The Quapaw Nation currently operates casinos in Oklahoma.
Attorneys for the Quapaw Nation drafted Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution. That amendment made a casino in Pine Bluff possible in the first place.
The Quapaw Nation also spent more than $3.7 million putting Amendment 100 on the ballot and passing it in 2018.
We have said before that Amendment 100’s wording favors wealthy casino corporations who are looking to expand their business to Arkansas. Applicants who want to operate a casino in Arkansas must be able to pay $250,000 in application fees and must have experience operating casinos in other states.
Casinos are a blight on the community. Jefferson County already has enough trouble with poverty as it is. Opening a casino in Pine Bluff simply will compound that problem.
Yesterday Governor Hutchinson told reporters that passage of Issue 4 on Tuesday is going to create a $40 million budget shortfall for the state.
Hutchinson was asked about the passage of Issue 4 legalizing casinos at Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs, Southland Park Gaming & Racing in West Memphis, and in Pope and Jefferson counties. Hutchinson said he had voted against the amendment. It passed with 54% of the vote.
“My first budget meeting today showed a $40-plus million gap because that amendment passed,” he said. “That reduced the tax rate [for Oaklawn and Southland], and so we have to adjust for that down the road.”
Hutchinson said he didn’t know what the amendment’s long-term effects would be.
Under Issue 4, Oaklawn and Southland will pay less money in taxes for their casino games than they currently do for their so-called “electronic games of skill.”
Overall, casinos in Arkansas will pay some of the lowest taxes of any casinos in America, and the State Legislature will not be able to raise the taxes on casino revenue.
Instead of boosting Arkansas’ economy and providing more tax revenue, it seems Issue 4 is going to be a drain on the state from Day One.