Driving Arkansas Forward, the group wanting to authorize two casino operations in the state with part of the revenue helping to fund highways, on Friday (July 6) submitted 96,170 signatures to the Secretary of State. The effort will need 84,859 valid signatures to make the November ballot.
The Arkansas Casino Gaming Amendment of 2018 ballot title and proposal was approved in late May by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Her sudden and surprising approval came after she was set to testify in federal court to clarify the state’s repeated rejections of several proposed constitutional amendments.
Officials with Driving Arkansas Forward filed the amendment Feb. 26. 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.
According to proposal language, the two casino operators would be awarded using a merit-based selection process.
“Applicants for casino licenses in Jefferson and Pope counties would be required to obtain the support of county and municipal officials in order to submit an application. Oaklawn and Southland, which now offer electronic games of skill, could expand and enhance those offerings to include traditional casino gaming. All four sites would be permitted to offer any gaming now allowed under federal law, including sports wagering,” noted a statement from the group.
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 $120 million.
“This proposed constitutional amendment will provide new tourism opportunities in every region of Arkansas, create additional jobs where we need them most, and generate new tax money that can be used to improve roads and lower our taxes,” said Nate Steel, a spokesman for Driving Arkansas Forward.
Supporters of another proposed constitutional amendment and a proposed initiated act also turned in signatures ahead of the Friday deadline.
Arkansas Term Limits, a group wanting to impose a 10-year overall limit on state legislative service, turned in 135,590 signatures – well over the 84,859 needed. A group supporting a raise in the minimum wage turned in 69,413 signatures for its initiated act. The measure, which would raise the $8.50 per hour state minimum wage to $12.00 per hour by 2022, needs to secure 67,887 signatures to move forward.