Family Council Action Committee Opposes Casino Amendment

The following is a press release from Family Council Action Committee.

On Friday Arkansas Wins in 2016 submitted petition signatures to the Arkansas Secretary of State requesting certification to place a casino amendment on the November ballot.

Family Council Action Committee Executive Director Jerry Cox released a statement against the amendment, saying, “This amendment allows a group of Missouri businessmen to write themselves and their gambling operation into the Arkansas Constitution.”

Cox said, “This amendment creates a monopoly allowing out-of-state businessmen to build casinos in Texarkana, Fayetteville, and Harrison. That’s bad enough, but the fact that no one else would be allowed to do the same creates a monopoly of the worst sort. Even if every voter in these cities opposes the casinos, they could still be built if the amendment passes in the statewide vote this November.”

Cox said the amendment lets casinos operate without enough accountability. “The way the amendment is written the Arkansas Legislature won’t be able to regulate them. It specifically states that any kind of gambling that is legal in Nevada and in several other states must be allowed at these casinos. In 10 or 20 years, there is not telling what kind of gambling they will be doing in Nevada and other states, but whatever it is, it will be allowed right here in Arkansas.”

Cox noted that casino gambling has not been an economic boon elsewhere. “Tunica County, Mississippi, has nine casinos. Just across the Mississippi River in Lee County, Arkansas, there are no casinos. The poverty levels in these two counties is almost identical. It’s the same with casinos in Oklahoma. At best their economy is stagnant. On the downside, communities with casinos see higher rates of bankruptcy, higher crime rates, higher divorce rates, and a greater need for community services to assist women and children in need. It’s no coincidence that pawn shops are usually next door to casinos. Arkansas won’t be any different. This is an industry that preys on poor people.”

Family Council Action Committee is a conservative 501(c)(4) organization based in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Poverty Levels Above Average in AR, OK, MS Counties with Casinos

According a news story published by KARK this week, counties in Arkansas and Oklahoma that have casino-style gambling also have above-average percentages of their populations living below the poverty line.

According to KARK, 19% of Arkansans live below the poverty line, but in Garland County–where Oaklawn is located–22% of the population lives below the poverty line, and in Crittenden County–where Southland is located–the number is even higher, at 24%.

Correspondingly, in Oklahoma–where a number of Indian tribes operate casinos–17% of the state’s residents live below the poverty line. In Ottawa and Comanche counties, however, the percentages of residents living in poverty are much higher.

This corresponds with research we did on counties with casinos in Mississippi. We compared Arkansas counties on the west bank of the Mississippi River with Mississippi counties on the east bank of the Mississippi River.

We found that casino gambling does not appears to be effective at lifting communities out of poverty.

Here is a breakdown of our findings:

  • Thirty percent of the population of Tunica County, Mississippi, lives in poverty; across the river, in Lee County, Arkansas, 31.5% of the population lives in poverty–virtually a tie, despite the fact Tunica County has nine casinos.
  • In Coahoma County, Mississippi, 38% of the population lives in poverty. In neighboring Phillips County, Arkansas, 33.5% lives in poverty. Despite having a casino, Coahoma County has more impoverished residents than Phillips County does.
  • In Washington County, Mississippi, 29% of the population lives in poverty. Across the river, in Chicot County, Arkansas 33% of the population lives in poverty.

Here’s the kicker: The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 22.7% of the population of Mississippi lives below the poverty line. That means even a place like Washington County, Mississippi–which has two casinos and the lowest poverty levels of any Mississippi county we reviewed–still has an inordinate number of citizens living below the poverty line.

If casino gambling is an economic boon, where’s the evidence? If gambling bolsters the local economy, provides jobs, generates revenue, and so forth as its proponents claim, why are the poverty levels so high in these counties that have casino-style gambling?

If we’re going to build a better economic future in our communities, casino gambling simply does not seem like the way to do it.

Land Bid May Bring Indian Gaming to Central Arkansas

The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma has applied with the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs to have a 160-acre plot of land near the Little Rock Port Authority placed in a trust by the United States for tribal use, according to various news sources.

The Quapaw Tribe has owned the land for about two years. Its application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs would change the designation of the land and significantly affect local regulation and control of the property.

The federal government recognizes multiple types of tribal lands. Typically, these lands are held in “trust” by the federal government. Indian reservations are one example of this federal “trust” system: The federal government, technically, owns the lands, but they are designated for tribal use.

The laws and regulations are a little difficult to navigate, but under federal law, tribes may conduct gambling operations on many of these tribal lands held in trust by the federal government.

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