Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has approved the form of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow casinos operated by the sponsors of the amendment in Washington, Boone and Miller counties.
The opinion approves the popular name and ballot title. Now signatures on petitions may be gathered. They must get 84,859 valid signatures of registered voters by July 8. It’s no easy task. Similar backers, including some investors from Missouri, failed in the effort in 2012.
The proposal had been rejected by Rutledge once. It was approved this time with only some minor typographical changes.
An Amendment to Allow Three Casinos to Operate in Arkansas,
One Each in the Following Counties: Boone County, Operated by Arkansas Gaming and Resorts, LLC; Miller County, Operated by Miller County Gaming, LLC; and Washington County, Operated by Washington County Gaming, LLCBallot Title
An amendment to the Arkansas Constitution authorizing three casinos to operate in Arkansas, one in Boone County, Arkansas, operated by Arkansas Gaming and Resorts, LLC, an Arkansas Limited Liability Company, one in Miller County, Arkansas, operated by Miller County Gaming, LLC, an Arkansas Limited Liability Company, and one in Washington County, Arkansas, operated by Washington County Gaming, LLC, an Arkansas Limited Liability Company, all being subject to the laws enacted by the General Assembly in accord with this amendment and regulations promulgated by the Arkansas Gaming Commission in accord with laws enacted by the General Assembly; defining casino gaming and gaming as dealing, operating, carrying on, conducting, maintaining, or exposing for play any game played with cards, dice, equipment, or any mechanical, electromechanical, or electronic device or machine for money, property, checks, credit, or any representative value, as well as accepting wagers on sporting events or other events, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, any game, device, or type of wagering permitted at a casino operated within any one or more of the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, or Texas as of November 8, 2016, or as subsequently permitted thereafter; creating the Arkansas Gaming Commission to regulate casinos in accord with laws enacted by the General Assembly, with the Arkansas Gaming Commission comprised of five (5) commissioners, each appointed by the Governor for staggered 5-year terms; providing for the General Assembly to appropriate monies to or for the use of the Arkansas Gaming Commission; requiring each casino to pay to the Arkansas State Treasury as general revenues a net casino gaming receipts tax equal to eighteen percent (18%) of its annual net casino gaming receipts; requiring each casino to pay to the county in which the casino is located a net casino gaming receipts tax equal to one-half of one percent (0.5%) of its annual net casino gaming receipts; requiring each casino to pay to the city or town in which the casino is located a net casino gaming receipts tax equal to one and one-half percent (1.5%) of its annual net casino gaming receipts; defining annual net casino gaming receipts as gross receipts for a 12-month period from casino gaming less amounts paid out or reserved as winnings to casino patrons for that 12-month period; subjecting each casino to the same income, property, sales, use, employment and other taxation as any for-profit business located in the county and city or town in which the casino is located, except that the Arkansas Gross Receipts Act of 1941 and local gross receipts taxes shall not apply to casino gaming receipts; allowing a casino to operate any day for any portion or all of any day; allowing the selling or complimentary serving of alcoholic beverages in casinos during all hours the casino operates but otherwise subject to all applicable Arkansas laws involving the distribution and sale of alcohol; permitting the shipment into Boone, Miller, and Washington counties in Arkansas of gambling devices shipped and delivered in accordance with applicable federal law (15 USC §§ 1171-1178 and amendments and replacements thereto); rendering the provisions of this amendment severable; declaring inapplicable all constitutional provisions and laws to the extent they conflict with this amendment, but not otherwise repealing, superseding, amending, or otherwise affecting Amendment 84 (bingo or raffles) or Amendment 87 (state lottery) to the Arkansas Constitution, or Arkansas Act 1151 of 2005 (Electronic Games of Skill).
Arkansas currently has two casinos, at Oaklawn Park and Southland Gaming in West Memphis. Current law allows casinos (or the euphemistic electronic games of skill) only at facilities with parimutuel wagering. Only Oaklawn and Southland qualify. If the past is any indication, attorneys for Oaklawn, particularly, will be watching the petition process closely and looking for miscues sufficient to challenge a place on the ballot.
In case you’re wondering, those LLCs that would have sole authority to operate casinos have already been established by the sponsors of the amendment. Arkansas Wins, the ballot question committee, has not yet disclosed financial backing, but will soon now that the form of the proposal has been approved.
A spokesman for the campaign said:
We’re not prepared to release any specifics on our budget. But as you know, this effort is a significant undertaking and we feel confident that we will have the financial resources necessary to effectively communicate our message to voters.
The group also issued this statement:
“Arkansas Wins in 2016 is grateful for the Attorney General’s timely approval of our amendment language, and we look forward to beginning the signature gathering process to put this issue on the ballot in November. We believe that this amendment can serve as a catalyst for economic development, job creation, tourism, and increased tax revenues for the state, cities and counties, and expect that voters will agree.”