Unpacking Issue 4, The Proposed 2018 Casino Amendment

Issue 4 is a proposed state constitutional amendment that will appear on the November 6 General Election ballot.

If passed, the amendment would authorize four casinos in Arkansas: One in Garland County; one in Pope County; one in Jefferson County; and one in Crittenden County.

Casino licenses in Garland and Crittenden counties would automatically be given to Oaklawn and Southland who operate racetracks in those counties. The other two casino licenses would be awarded to qualified companies following an application process with the state.

Casinos would be able to offer virtually any type of gambling, including wagering on sporting events. The amendment may authorize Internet gambling and wagering via smartphones and other electronic devices. The amendment taxes net revenue from casino games, and it divides that tax money among various state and local government bodies.

Below is additional information regarding Issue 4.

Authorizes Casinos In Four Counties.

Issue 4 authorizes casinos in Garland, Crittenden, Pope, and Jefferson counties. Casino licenses in Garland and Crittenden counties would be given to racetrack franchises in those counties automatically. That means that Oaklawn’s horse racing track in Garland County and Southland’s greyhound track in Crittenden County would become casinos upon passage of the amendment. Companies would apply for licenses to operate casinos in Jefferson and Pope counties.

Who Can Operate Casinos?

Under Issue 4, Arkansas’ racetracks in Hot Springs and West Memphis would be able to offer casino gaming. Companies wishing to operate casinos in Jefferson County or Pope County must have proven experience operating casinos elsewhere, and must pay an application fee of up to $250,000 to the state. Practically speaking, these requirements favor wealthy casinos from other states who wish to expand business to Arkansas.

Allows Virtually Any Type of Gambling.

The amendment lets the casinos offer:

  • Sports betting. Casinos would be able to take bets on virtually any sporting event.
  • Slot machines. The amendment allows gambling via “any mechanical, electromechanical, or electronic device or machine.” This includes slot machines.
  • Cards. Casinos would be able to offer poker and other card games.
  • Dice. Casinos would be able to offer gambling on dice games.
  • Anything Else. Casinos can offer gambling via virtually any type of device or machine. There is no way to know what this open-ended language might ultimately allow.

Does Issue 4 Authorize Internet Gambling and Smartphone Gambling?

One unanswered question is whether or not the casino amendment would open the door for gambling online and via smartphones. State and federal law already have allowed Oaklawn to accept wagers from Arkansans online via its website. The amendment’s wording that says casinos can offer gambling via “any…electronic device” arguably could let people gamble through the casino’s website or smartphone app as well.

Taxes On Casino Revenue.

The amendment taxes “net casino gaming receipts,” which is gross revenue from casino games, minus any money paid to patrons in the form of winnings. The amendment taxes each casino’s first $150 million in net casino gaming receipts at a rate of 13%; net casino gaming receipts over $150 million are taxed at a rate of 20%.

This is lower than most states.

For example, according to the American Gambling Association:

  • Oklahoma taxes casinos at 35%.
  • Louisiana taxes casinos at 21.5%, and lets local governments impose additional taxes.
  • Missouri taxes casinos at 21%.

The only states with casino tax rates lower than Issue 4’s are Mississippi (11.2%), Nevada (6.75%), New Jersey (9.25% – 10.5%), and South Dakota (9%).

Under Issue 4, casinos are subject to the same income tax, property tax, sales tax, and other taxes as for-profit businesses, but cities and counties cannot levy any additional taxes on casino revenue.

Where Would The Net Casino Gaming Receipts Tax Money Go?

  • 55% to the Arkansas General Revenue Fund. This money would be allocated by lawmakers.
  • 17.5% to the Arkansas Racing Commission. This money would be used for horse racing and greyhound racing.
  • 8% to the county in which the casino is located. This money would be allocated by the quorum court.
  • 19.5% to the city or town in which the casino is located. This money would be allocated by the city council. If the casino is not located in a city or town, then the county would receive this money.

No Funding Earmarked For Arkansas’ Roads.

Some of the campaign material for Issue 4 has indicated the measure would help pay for highway improvements. However, the amendment does not set aside any funds for Arkansas’ roads.

Most of the tax revenue collected from the casinos under Issue 4 is handed over to legislative bodies who would spend the money as they see fit. Nothing in the amendment requires the Arkansas Legislature or local officials to direct money toward improvements to state highways or local roads.

In August the Arkansas Highway Commission issued a news release clarifying that Issue 4 does not earmark money for state highways, despite some of the claims being made by supporters of Issue 4.


Under Issue 4, casinos may operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, and casinos would be permitted to sell or give away alcohol to patrons during all hours the casino operates, including Christmas Day—even if the casino is located in a dry county.

The Primary Financial Backers of Issue 4.

According to news articles and financial reports, the Quapaw Tribe in Oklahoma has contributed more than $1.4 million to passage of Issue 4. Leaders from the Quapaw Tribe have said they want to open a casino in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and have held meetings with elected officials and community leaders in Pine Bluff.

The Cherokee Tribe in Oklahoma also has contributed more than a million dollars to Issue 4 and has shown interest in opening a casino near Russellville in Pope County.

The campaign for Issue 4 also has received support from manufacturers of gaming devices.

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.

Three Things We Can Do About The Court Ruling on Sports Betting

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled states can legalize sports betting.

The decision sets the stage for states like Arkansas to become awash in a sea of gambling. State law already generally prohibits betting on ballgames and other sporting events, but gambling interests likely will start lobbying heavily to have those laws changed.

Some of our friends are asking what they can do about this court ruling. Here are three things:

1. Oppose Casino Amendments in Arkansas

At least two constitutional amendments legalizing casino gambling in Arkansas are vying for a spot on the November ballot. Casino proposals rejected in the past would have allowed any form of gambling that is legal in Nevada.

Sports betting is legal in Nevada right now. If our laws let casinos in Arkansas offer the same forms of gambling that casinos in Las Vegas offer, then that would include sports betting.

Opposing any casino amendments in Arkansas is one way we can ensure sports betting doesn’t work its way into our state.

2. Encourage the Legislature to Oppose Sports Betting

The racetracks at Oaklawn and Southland already offer casino-style games, and last December consultants for the State of Arkansas floated the idea of letting them offer sports betting as well.

We need to encourage our legislators not to authorize sports betting at Oaklawn or Southland.

3. Encourage Our U.S. Senators and Congressmen to Regulate Sports Betting

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling struck down a federal law that effectively gave Las Vegas a monopoly on sports betting in America, but it left the door open for Congress to restrict and regulate sports betting through other federal laws. All four professional sports leagues — the NBA, NFL, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball — as well as the NCAA oppose sports betting.

We need to encourage our congressmen to regulate sports betting as much as they possibly can.

Here’s Why We Need to Oppose Sports Betting

Sports betting in particular poses a problem, because of its appeal to young people who are more likely to develop a gambling problem.

Sports betting also threatens to undermine the integrity of collegiate and professional sports. Many sports programs work hard to maintain family-friendly environments that young and old alike can enjoy. Sports betting threatens to corrupt those family-friendly programs. That is one reason so many leagues have opposed efforts to legalize sports betting.

As a whole, gambling is a blight on the community. It is linked to homelessness, domestic violence, divorce, and a host of other issues. Problem gambling and gambling addiction tear families apart. Arkansas already has enough trouble from gambling. We don’t need any more.

Photo Credit: The original uploader was Bobak at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons