Yesterday the Secretary of State certified a proposed constitutional amendment legalizing four casinos in Arkansas for the November 6 General Election ballot.
The amendment, Issue 4, would convert the racetracks in Hot Springs and West Memphis into full fledged casinos, and it would let casinos open in or near Russellville and Pine Bluff.
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, at a news conference in the Capitol yesterday, Governor Hutchinson told reporters,
I will vote ‘no’ on the casino amendment because I have always opposed the expansion of casino gambling in Arkansas.
The campaign to pass Issue 4 largely has been bankrolled by the Quapaw and Cherokee tribes in Oklahoma, which together have donated more than $2 million to the casino measure.
Last week the Arkansas Department of Transportation criticized the advertising tactics the measure’s backers are using. Campaign material in support of Issue 4 indicates that casino tax money will provide funding for highway improvement. However, the amendment itself does not earmark any casino tax revenue for highways. Ultimately, state and local officials will decide how that tax money will be spent.
The following press release is from Family Council Action Committee.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Little Rock – On Wednesday the Arkansas Secretary of State certified a state constitutional amendment authorizing four casinos in Arkansas for the November ballot.
Family Council Action Committee Executive Director Jerry Cox released a statement, saying, “This is a bad amendment. It lets Oaklawn in Hot Springs and Southland in West Memphis offer all the gambling they want, and it lets gambling companies from other states build casinos in Pine Bluff and Russellville. Arkansas just doesn’t need any more gambling.”
Cox said casino gambling is a blight on the community and will not help the economy. “If casinos produce jobs and bolster the economy, then Mississippi and Oklahoma ought to be thriving, but they aren’t. Poverty in Tunica County, Mississippi, is just as bad as it is across the river in Lee County, Arkansas. If you drive through eastern Oklahoma, it’s obvious the casinos are making money, but the people who live there are struggling to get by. Researchers consistently link casino gambling with divorce, domestic violence, homelessness, and substance abuse. There’s just no way casinos are going to improve our communities.”
Cox said it is clear the Cherokee and Quapaw tribes in Oklahoma hope to build casinos in Arkansas if this amendment passes. “The Cherokee and Quapaw tribes both are backing this amendment, and leaders from the Quapaw Tribe have said over and over again they want to put a casino in Pine Bluff. Oaklawn and Southland already offer a lot of casino games at their racetracks, but this amendment lets them offer even more—including betting on ballgames and possibly Internet gambling. This isn’t about building roads or helping Arkansans. It’s about wealthy casinos expanding their business and fleecing our people out of their hard-earned money.”
Cox said his group will fight the casino amendment. “All options are on the table. We are considering a legal challenge to have the court strike the amendment from the ballot. We plan to educate voters about the amendment between now and Election Day. Arkansas already suffers enough from gambling as it is. We don’t need any more.”
Family Council Action Committee is a conservative 501(c) (4) organization based in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Photo Credit: 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
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