An advocacy group is working to make Arkansas sports betting legal under a proposal for casino expansion.
According to GamingToday, the proposal from Driving Arkansas Forward has garnered enough signatures — nearly 100,000 of them — to earn a spot on the ballot in the upcoming November election. The southeastern state is one of the few in the region that has not considered a sports betting bill in recent years.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson reportedly opposes the activity.
What’s in the proposed amendment?
Driving Arkansas Forward has crafted a fairly detailed legislative framework to support its Arkansas Casino Gaming Amendment. The proposal moves to accomplish two primary things by amending the state constitution:
- Authorize casino gaming at four establishments in the state (two existing and two proposed)
- Define approved “casino gaming” in a way that explicitly includes betting on sports
From a financial standpoint, the proposal does not differentiate sports betting from other forms of gambling.
All casino revenue would be taxed at a blanket rate of 13 percent for the first $150 million and 20 percent thereafter. There would be no additional licensing fees for sportsbook operations, and revenue would be used to fund road repairs and re-examine other tax burdens.
The measure leaves the rest of the details to the Arkansas Racing Commission, including the establishment of a licensing fee not to exceed $250,000.
Read the full proposal here.
Four states have launched sports betting industries since the US Supreme Court ruling in May, including one of Arkansas’ next-door neighbors. Mississippi sports betting went live just in time for college football season last month.
Will voters approve Arkansas sports betting?
It’s far too early to tell, but stakeholders seem to be split on the issue in early polls. Even one of the lawyers that worked on the document isn’t sure sports betting is a natural fit in the Natural State.
Here’s Alex Gray, speaking to the Arkansas Times:
“Some will be for it, some against it. It’s an opportunity to vote for a merit-based proposal. If the voters want it, we’ll have it. If they don’t we won’t.”
Arkansas does have some limited gambling in place, as can be inferred from the proposal. There are two racetrack casinos within the state:
- Southland Park
Both properties offer electronic table games and “reels” akin to slot machines. Those games, authorized in 2005, classify as games of skill under Arkansas law.
Under the proposed amendment, the two new casinos would be located in Pope and Jefferson counties — one on either side of Little Rock. All four would be granted expanded permissions to offer card and dice games alongside sports betting.
The state’s constitution is especially restrictive in this regard, including an explicit prohibition on sports gambling. In order to make Arkansas sports betting a reality, a majority of voters would need to approve the amendment.
They’ll have the chance to do so (or not do so) in less than two months. After receiving more than the 84,859 signatures required, the measure will come before the people on Nov. 6. It will be listed as Issue 4 on the ballot.
If the proposal does pass, regulators would begin accepting Arkansas sports betting applications no later than June 1, 2019.