LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -The building of additional casinos in Arkansas is coming up for a vote.
Issue 4, the casino amendment, would authorize four casinos and sports betting in Arkansas.
Operations at Oaklawn in Hot Springs and Southland in West Memphis would expand, and two resort-style facilities would be created in Pine Bluff and Russellville, the state’s remaining quadrants. According to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension Public Policy Center, Oaklawn and Southland would automatically receive the licenses if voters approve the amendment.
Also, the two other licenses would be issued by the Arkansas Racing Commission.
Alex Gray, counsel for Driving Arkansas Forward, expressed concerns over Issue 4.
"This is a bad bet for the people of Russellville, a bad bet for the people of Pine Bluff," Cox said. "If you look at neighboring states, their poverty rates are just as high or higher than Arkansas, so no state has ever been able to gamble its way to prosperity."
Jerry Cox, president and founder of Arkansas Family Council, debated the effects the constitutional amendment would have on Arkansans.
"Look at what's happened in other communities with casinos," Gray said. "You haven't seen the rise in crime. You haven't seen any of this other stuff that opponents will say. What you have seen is an increase in jobs, an increase in economic opportunity."
Gray's group has estimated Issue 4 would initially give back about $66 million a year to the state and $33 million to the cities and counties where they are located.
In addition, Gray’s group said $25 million will go to Oaklawn and Southland.
"It's time to keep our dollars in state," Gray said. "It could be used for lowering income taxes, for teacher funding, for a match for highway funding. Then you're going to see infrastructure in those specific locations, increase in helping school districts, increase in helping the general budgets in those areas."
Cox said the casinos would take money out of the local communities and put it in the pockets of the Oklahoma Indian tribes who are bankrolling the campaign.
"They're not here to do us any favors," Cox said. "They're not here to help our schools or our roads. They're here to make a lot of money off the people of Arkansas."
If Issue 4 is passed, a casino applicant would be required to pay an application fee of at least $250,000 and turn in a letter of support from a county judge or quorum court to be considered.
Also, if the proposed casino is in the city limits of Pine Bluff or Russellville, an applicant would have to turn in a letter of support from the city’s mayor.
Early voting starts on Monday.
For more information about Issue 4, click here.