In the news, on this blog, and around the state, there’s been a lot of talk about the proposed constitutional amendment to allow casinos to be established in seven Arkansas counties. Since many Arkansans are looking for information about this amendment, I thought it appropriate to give a brief breakdown of what you could be voting on in November. Below are three main objections to the proposed casino amendment.
1. A single corporation would be written into the Arkansas Constitution and given special rights.
Texas businessman Michael J. Wasserman, the casino amendment’s sponsor, wants to leave his mark on Arkansas—by writing himself into our constitution. If Wasserman’s amendment gets the signatures it needs from around the state, and the people vote it into law, Wasserman’s corporation, Arkansas Hotels and Entertainment, Inc., will have a monopoly on the casino industry in Arkansas. Now, expanding casino gambling in our state is bad enough, but the very fact that Wasserman’s corporation would get special rights in our constitution is alarming and wrong.
2. The casinos’ alcohol policy will create an unsafe environment and fly in the face of the will of the people.
In all seven designated counties—Sebastian, Pulaski, Garland, Miller, Crittenden, Boone and Jefferson—the casinos will be allowed to stay open 24/7. The amendment also allows the casinos to sell or give away alcohol to its patrons. This has the potential to turn the casinos into all-night gambling and drinking clubs. Study after study has shown that this type of environment breeds crime, and ultimately damages communities and families. What’s more, Boone County is a dry county, and has been since 1941. Every time the alcohol issue has been brought to the voters, they have chosen to keep the county dry. This amendment would go against the will of the people in Boone County, who have fought hard against private liquor licenses for restaurants and clubs.
3. State government would be virtually barred from regulating the casinos.
The amendment specifically prohibits the General Assembly or any other political subdivision of the state from enacting any legislation, rules or regulations regarding casino gaming. This is like a repeat of Arkansas’ state-run lottery: An amendment forces the government to institute a lottery, but then prevents the government from keeping it accountable. Arkansans know that didn’t turn out well at all. We do not need another unregulated gambling operation in Arkansas. Furthermore, the amendment directs state tax policy to such an extent that the Legislature would not be able to choose how most of the casinos’ tax revenue is used.