Arkansas residents vote to legalize casinos

Arkansas residents vote to legalize casinos
Southland Gaming (Source: Smith, Courtney)

WEST MEMPHIS, AR (WMC) - The vote to legalize casinos in Arkansas could now mean a hotel costing more than $200 million will be moving to West Memphis.

The owners of Southland Gaming and Racing have plans to build the hotel and a conference center now that voters approved casinos in four counties.

The passing of this constitutional amendment will likely mean more jobs, tourism and ultimately more money for the area.

Not only will it affect Arkansas, it could also have a large impact on Memphis and Shelby County.

The vote granted casino licenses to Southland Park in West Memphis and Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs.

"We’ve been seeing Arkansans fill the parking lots of those casinos just across state lines for a long time and the push was to capture that gaming revenue here at home,” said Nate Steel, who helped author the constitutional amendment.

Steel said the “yes” vote doesn’t just impact Arkansas, it could help bring tourism from out of state.

"We hope to capture a lot of Arkansans who are leaving the state here, but we also hope to offer casino entertainment and tourism to out of staters namely in Memphis,” Steel said.

Delaware North, the owners and operators of Southland sent WMC Action News 5 a statement that reads in part:

“We thank the voters for their trust in us. We will increase our investment, provide more jobs, and continue to offer a great experience for our guests.”

The company also said it has plans to build a hotel and conference center on the Southland property.

West Memphis realtor Michael Ford said the passing of this amendment is guaranteed to bring people and money to the area.

"I think it's going to increase people staying in our community overnight,” Ford said. “And any time someone rents a hotel room that means they're also having breakfast, they're having dinner and they're spending money that generates additional money in our communities."

The measure also legalizes casinos in Pope and Jefferson counties.

Steel also said the amendment places casinos in different parts of the state so they can assure people these casinos will be resort-style, not just roadside attractions.

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