Last week the Arkansas Department of Transportation published a press release taking issue with some of the language casino proponents are using to promote a ballot proposal ahead of the November general election.
The group Driving Arkansas Forward has repeatedly implied the proposed casino amendment would provide tax revenue for highway funding. However, as we and others have pointed out, the amendment itself doesn’t allocate any tax money for road improvements.
While early drafts of the amendment would have taxed casinos to fund state highways, the version of the amendment voters likely will see this November does not. Instead, it simply says that local officials and state lawmakers will decide how to spend most of the tax money received from casinos.
In a statement last week, the Department of Transportation said that “citizens need to understand that the proposal does not direct any of the revenue to be generated from the casinos to our state’s highways, despite what some of the promotional ads are implying. . . . The fact is, the proposed Constitutional amendment regarding casino gambling is not a highway funding proposal.”
The state Highway Commission is not taking a position on the casino amendment itself, but is concerned voters will misunderstand the proposal.
It’s worth pointing out that by some estimates state and local government spend up to $10 in social services for every $1 received in tax revenue from vices like casino gambling. Gambling is linked to divorce, bankruptcy, homelessness, domestic violence, and a host of other problems. Casino tax money simply cannot compensate for the toll gambling take on the community.
Below is the Arkansas Department of Transportation’s full statement concerning the casino proposal.
LITTLE ROCK (8-29) – A proposed Constitutional amendment regarding casino gambling in Arkansas is currently in the process of obtaining certification that would allow it to appear on the ballot in the November 2018 general election. The proposed amendment would allow additional casinos to be opened in Arkansas.
The Highway Commission has no position on gambling in Arkansas – that is up to the people to decide should the issue be certified for the ballot. However, the Commission believes the citizens need to have a clear understanding of the proposal. Specifically, citizens need to understand that the proposal does not direct any of the revenue to be generated from the casinos to our state’s highways, despite what some of the promotional ads are implying.
This proposal is being promoted by a group calling itself Driving Arkansas Forward. They continue to use language and promotional materials that are leading people to believe that the proposed amendment would provide much needed new funding for our state’s highways. That is simply not the case. Of the tax revenue estimated to be generated from the casinos, more than half (55%) is being directed to the state’s General Fund. None is being directed to the state’s highway fund.
Again, the Highway Commission has no position on gambling in Arkansas. But the citizens who will decide need to make their decision based on facts. The fact is, the proposed Constitutional amendment regarding casino gambling is not a highway funding proposal.
Photo Credit: Brandonrush [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons