Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday (May 7) the state will allow a limited opening of three gaming operations in Arkansas on May 18. He said the facilities will open at one-third capacity with “stringent social distancing” rules in place.
The governor said in the daily COVID-19 press conference from Texarkana that operators of the three gaming facilities brought ideas on how they could open. The operators have worked with the Arkansas Department of Health, and detailed guidelines on how they can open will be released Thursday or Friday, Gov. Hutchinson said.
Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Southland in West Memphis and the Saracen in Pine Bluff – now operating in a temporary building until work is complete on a multi-million dollar gaming and entertainment center – are the three operators in Arkansas. It remains unclear who will receive the license for a voter-approved gaming operation in Pope County.
Gaming operations have been hit hard in Arkansas because of closures caused by COVID-19 – even with Oaklawn conducting horse races without a crowd. Tax revenue from Arkansas gaming operations in the first 10 months of the fiscal year (July 2019-April 2020) total $31.2 million, down 45.5% from the $57.3 million in the same period of the previous fiscal year. Total Arkansas tax revenue in the first 10 months of the fiscal year (July 2019-April 2020) is down 1.9%, but revenue in the April report, posted May 4, was down more than 28% because of COVID-19 economic disruption.
Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 3,665 on Thursday, up from 3,568 on Wednesday. Of the 97 new cases, 30 were from correctional facilities. Of the total cases, 710 are active cases, with 2,867 recoveries. The number of deaths rose from 85 to 88. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 70 on Thursday, up from 69 Wednesday. Of the COVID-19 patients, 14 were on ventilators, unchanged from Wednesday.
As of Thursday at 1 p.m., there were 1,243,029 U.S. cases and 73,573 deaths. Globally, there were 3,809,180 cases and 266,432 deaths.
Also on Thursday, Arkansas’ Congressional delegation announced that the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration will receive $6.926 million to purchase a wide range of resources for law enforcement including personal protective equipment, gloves, masks and sanitizer, as well as fund overtime and training of officers and provide/supplement medical care of inmates.
The funds were made available by the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program which provides $850 million to assist states and local governments in preventing, preparing for and responding to the coronavirus. The funding was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.