The Missouri investor/Cherokee combine looking to put control of three casinos in their hands via the Arkansas Constitution has begun advertising.
The expected themes: Increase tax revenue for state use; increase tourism.
That said, a word about a quote from Gov. Asa Hutchinson the other day about his opposition to the amendment. He said:
“I don’t think that is what we need to expand tourism in the Natural State,” he told reporters. “I think we have some great venues for electronic games of skill in Arkansas now, horse racing. That’s our tradition. That’s our history.
Tradition. That’s a funny word to use about electronic games of skill, an 11-year-old practice by which the legislature sidestepped the prohibition on casino gambling in Arkansas law with an artifice that no one ever directly challenged in court. The games are casino games, the only difference being that they are played on video screens rather than with cards, wheels, bouncing dice and felt playing surfaces. The activity has been very successful, both for Southland and Oaklawn, as well as for the state in tax revenue.
We do have a rich tradition and history of legislative sleight of hand for powerful interest groups.
And the tradition of dog racing? Don’t get me started. It’s a dying sport that I”m sure Southland would be happy to end but for the fact that its existence, through that legal quirk, makes the West Memphis casino possible.
Speaking of gambling: I’m still betting a lawsuit will challenge the gambling amendment. It’s unprecedented, I’m pretty sure, to give an explicit private business franchise in our foundational legal document. It is ironic that some guys from Missouri would be given sole rights to three casinos when, under current law, they couldn’t legally file a request for information about their operation under the Freedom of Information Act because they are not Arkansas citizens.