New casino proposal in organizational stage (UPDATED)

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 2,215 views 

A ballot question committee has been formed to explore a different casino proposal in Arkansas, according to new paperwork filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission.

The Associated Press first reported on the development late Tuesday (March 27).

A statement of organization was filed Tuesday with the ethics agency by Arkansas Wins in 2018, Inc. The group says their purpose is to pass a constitutional amendment for four casinos in Arkansas.

“Arkansas Wins in 2018, Inc. will advocate the qualification and passage of an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution authorizing four casinos in Arkansas, one each at a specifically designated location within each of the following four counties: Benton County, Boone County, Miller County and Pulaski County,” the filing stated.

“Assuming qualification of the proposed amendment, this ballot question would be presented to a popular vote at the General Election in November, 2018,” it added.

Mark Diggs of Little Rock and Robert “Bob” Womack of Branson, Missouri are listed as principal officers of Arkansas Wins in 2018. The group must obtain approval of its ballot title and language from the Arkansas Attorney General before it can collect signatures to attempt to qualify for the general election in November 2018.

In 2016, a group called “Arkansas Wins in 2016” unsuccessfully attempted to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for a casino initiative. Womack and Missouri businessman Jim Thompson were a part of that effort.

The new measure is similar to another casino proposal that has not yet obtained approval from Arkansas AG Leslie Rutledge. Driving Arkansas Forward has organized to allow for four casinos in Arkansas with a portion of the tax revenue collected being steered to highways and roads.

UPDATE: The Arkansas Wins casino proposal would allow four new casinos to be built in state. Specifically, it designates four tracts of land in the proposed amendment in the four counties it is looking to locate:

  • Benton County – 16994 Kincheloe Road in Siloam Springs (247 acres)
  • Boone County – 13721 Bird Lane in Omaha (62 acres)
  • Miller County – 7815 U.S. Highway 67 E. (35 acres)
  • Pulaski County – Parcels with no street address, but located between Crystal Valley Road and Lawson Road. (200 acres)

Only one casino per county would be allowed.

The legal language does not spell out which entity or how an entity would be selected to build the one casino per county, it simply states — and would require voter approval — that the casinos would have to be constructed on the land parcels, which are outlined in detailed legal descriptions. Talk Business & Politics is researching the owners of the properties.

The casinos in Benton, Boone and Pulaski counties would have to invest a minimum of $100 million, according to the measure. The Miller County investment must top $60 million.

Additionally, the Arkansas Wins proposal creates a five-member Arkansas Gaming Commission. The governor would appoint the five members to staggered terms.

Each of the four casinos would pay 20% of their annual net casino gaming receipts to state and local entities. The 20% tax breakdown would be distributed as such:

  • 70% to the Arkansas Department of Transportation for roads and highways;
  • 15% to counties where casinos do not operate;
  • 8% to the state general revenue fund;
  • 3% to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission training program;
  • 1% to the Arkansas Department of Human Services for gambling disorder prevention;
  • 1% to the county where a casino is located; and
  • 2% to a city where a casino is located.

The Arkansas Wins amendment does not make any changes to Hot Springs-based Oaklawn or West Memphis-based Southland. It also does not outline a lottery-based system for selecting potential operators like the Driving Arkansas Forward proposal does.