Drive Arkansas Forward refiles amendment for casinos and highway funding

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,407 views 

Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow construction of casinos in Arkansas have submitted a revised amendment to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who rejected the language in the first proposal last month.

The revised amendment, known as the The Arkansas Casino Gaming Amendment of 2018, was filed Monday (Feb. 26) by the citizens’ group Drive Arkansas Forward. It would authorize two new casinos – one in Jefferson County and one in Pope County – while enhancing the gaming operations at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis.

“We have all witnessed in the past, election cycle after cycle, individuals and groups trying to do this the wrong way,” said Nate Steel, counsel for Driving Arkansas Forward. “This time, it’s different because of the fact that we have amended our proposal based on the attorney general’s feedback and resubmitted a fair and reasonable ballot measure. This allows the voters of Arkansas to expand the gaming industry in a smart and controlled manner by establishing a pathway forward for our state for years to come. In response to the attorney general’s comments, we have identified two specific counties in Arkansas that would be eligible for a casino license. Those licenses would be awarded through a merit-based process.”

As with the previous proposal, the bulk of tax revenues from casino gaming would go for highway needs statewide, as well as in the counties and cities where the casinos are located. Total annual tax revenue estimates exceed $100 million.

In rejecting the language of the initial amendment, Rutledge cited the definitions of “casino” and “casino gaming,” whether the measure is a true “highway funding” proposal, and a reference to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission as reasons for her rejection.

Under Arkansas law, the attorney general must certify or reject the popular name and ballot title of a proposed constitutional amendment within 10 business days. Once certified, Driving Arkansas Forward will immediately start collecting signatures to ensure the measure is placed on the Nov. 6 ballot.