Shocking news: A study paid for by backers of the casino expansion amendment concludes it would be an economic boon to the state.

Their release:

Arkansas’s economy could add more than 6,000 new jobs and $5.8 billion over the next 10 years with expanded casino gaming and entertainment, according to independent findings by the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The report commissioned by Driving Arkansas Forward forecasts the state’s GDP to rapidly grow if voters approve Issue 4. The proposed constitutional amendment authorizes one casino in Jefferson County, one in Pope County and grants full casino licenses to Oaklawn in Hot Springs and Southland in West Memphis.

The report estimates the GDP to increase by $5.8 billion over 10 years if voters approve the ballot measure. The amendment would create at least 3,000 jobs in the gaming, amusement and recreation industries and another 3,000 new jobs for Arkansas residents in other sectors.

“Voting ‘yes’ on Issue 4 means Arkansas can keep its money, its jobs and its tax revenue in Arkansas rather than sending money to surrounding states, and it means Arkansas’s economy will reap benefits even more far-reaching than many of the industrial super-projects we recruit to the state with public money,” said Nate Steel, counsel for Driving Arkansas Forward. “These privately financed casino resorts will employ Arkansas residents, pay Arkansas taxes and generate billions of dollars of economic growth for Arkansas.”

The study contemplated two scenarios, one in which casino revenues remained somewhat static and neither Oaklawn or Southland expanding gaming beyond electronic games of skill. The more likely, but still conservative, scenario forecasted that Oaklawn and Southland would expand to offer full casino gaming and gaming receipts would increase based on historical trends.

“What this study represents is a thorough investigation of the likely impact of Issue 4 on the state’s economy,” said Dr. Michael Pakko, AEDI chief economist. “We applied a dynamic regional economic model to projections of casino revenues, growth and construction activity to investigate both the direct and indirect effects of expanding the gaming sector in Arkansas. Not surprisingly, when you have an economic activity that is prohibited within the state but is available in nearby states, bringing that activity home has the effect of raising total income, spending and employment within Arkansas.”

Issue 4 establishes a transparent and merit-based selection process for casinos in Jefferson and Pope counties, and it recognizes the historical benefit and impact of iconic Arkansas attractions Oaklawn and Southland.

Most importantly, it keeps entertainment and hospitality dollars in Arkansas and out of neighboring states like Mississippi, where that state’s gaming commission reported 1.149 million visits from Arkansas residents last year.

In short, we could be another Atlantic City. Everybody wins. Except those who lose enough money to provide the casino profits that drive these numbers.