A proposal could allow up to three casinos to be built in Arkansas while also benefiting state highways. Arkansas voters may get a chance to decide if the proposal makes it to the November 2018 ballot.
The group 'Driving Arkansas Forward' is partnering with the Quapaw Tribe out of Oklahoma on the amendment with the ballot title: The Arkansas Casino Gaming and Highway Funding Amendment of 2018.
“We're not talking about some roadside slot machine type place. This is going to be a resort. We expect they would bring convention centers, tourism dollars and a huge shot in the arm to the Arkansas Highway Trust Fund,” said Nate Steel, attorney representing 'Driving Arkansas Forward.'
The casino tax revenue would help Arkansas roads by putting 65 percent to the Arkansas Highway Fund. About 22 percent would go to the city the casino is located in and 10 percent to the county.
The amendment would allow licenses in locations based on the highest population with the highest economic need. Both the mayor and county judge would have to be on board. The amendment would first authorize a license in Jefferson County, followed by Crittenden County. A third possible license could be granted in Miller, Mississippi, Pope, Union or White County.
“These are real resort, tourism type facilities that I think the counties and town will be very proud to have,” said Steel.
At least $100 million must be invested in each casino. Licenses would be awarded based on merit.
“I think we will be breaking dirt in 2019,” Steel said.Quapaw Tribe Chairman John Berrey released a statement:
The Quapaw Tribe has a longstanding interest in economic development in Arkansas, so we're eager to partner with a coalition supporting a constitutional amendment to bring gaming to Jefferson County and other counties in Arkansas. Unlike previous measures, this amendment uses a merit-based selection process and puts the decision-making in the hands of local communities. We are excited about the potential opportunity to work with the people of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County to invest in the future to bring more than 1,000 full-time jobs to the Delta and raise much-needed funding for Arkansas's highway needs.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has until next week to certify or reject the ballot title.