Group organizes to push for constitutional amendment for casinos and highway funding

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 1,328 views 

A new citizens’ group, Driving Arkansas Forward, has organized to push for a constitutional amendment that would allow three casinos to be built in Arkansas with the bulk of the tax revenue dedicated to highway funding.

The proposal would allow a casino to be built in Jefferson County, Crittenden County, and either Miller, Mississippi, Pope, Union or White counties. The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration’s Lottery Division would oversee the issuance of licenses, which would be handled through a merit-based selection method. There can be no more than three casinos statewide and no more than one in each county.

“Our highway system must be a priority if Arkansas wants to remain competitive nationally and provide the best economic opportunities to our residents,” said Nate Steel, counsel for Driving Arkansas Forward. “This amendment focuses on highway funding while creating a fair, transparent and merit-based process for issuing gaming licenses. We can no longer afford to lose potential gaming revenue to surrounding states when we have the opportunity to keep that money here and create jobs in communities that need them.”

The group has asked the Attorney General’s Office to certify the popular name and ballot title of The Arkansas Casino Gaming and Highway Funding Amendment of 2018. If approved, the group can begin collecting signatures for potential placement on the November 2018 ballot.

According to the group, Arkansas highway officials estimate the state’s expected highway revenue over the next decade will meet only about half of its needs. Potentially, casino revenues could bring in an additional $45 million per year for Arkansas roads.

“This proposed amendment could be the shot in the arm we need to help meet infrastructure needs statewide and to improve economic conditions in places like Jefferson and Crittenden counties,” Steel said. “This proposal addresses the deficiencies of previous casino proposals. It gives local leaders a voice in the process and makes sure there’s a level playing field for everyone involved.”

At least $100 million must be invested in each casino.

In addition to the 65% of tax revenues dedicated to highways, 22.5% of revenues would go to the city where the casino is located and 10% to the county where the casino is located. The Arkansas Lottery Division, which would regulate the casinos, would receive 2.5% of casino tax revenue.

A copy of the full amendment can be viewed here.