Economic impact of casinos in Arkansas

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Arkansas lawmakers are learning more about the big bucks behind a proposal to legalize casinos in the state. 

On Tuesday, The Department of Finance & Administration and Driving Arkansas Forward – the group backing the casino initiative – presented contrasting numbers.

The proposed constitutional amendment would legalize casino gambling at Oaklawn and Southland, which already offer electronic games like video poker. It would also legalize casinos in two new locations in Jefferson and Pope Counties.

The state currently collects an 18% tax on casino gaming receipts that goes to general revenue. This proposal would divvy that up; some would go to general revenue, and some to the cities and counties. 

DF&A says there would be a hole in general revenue while the two new casinos take 18 to 24 months to open; Driving Arkansas Forward disagrees.

“The idea that there’s a two year basically dead period for these two casino sites I don’t believe that’s true,” said Alex Gray, counsel for Driving Arkansas Forward, “What happens is, these casinos get up and running so you can be at the casinos, then they finish up the hotel part.” 

Neither side brought up sports betting, which could be legalized in Arkansas after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Gray doesn’t expect the payout from those bets to amount to a whole lot, but does predict they’ll draw more people into casinos, who will stick around to spend money on other games. 

The proposal isn’t on the ballot yet. The Secretary of State’s office determined it was about 15,000 signatures short. Gray says they have until August 24th to collect them. 

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