HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) - Arkansas voters have now legalized casinos in four counties, but some say they thought Oaklawn was already a casino.
So, 11 Listens went to explain the law and what happens next.
Oaklawn is known for its thoroughbred racing, and once inside to some, it may look like a casino. It's why one viewer asked, "Isn't Oaklawn Park considered a casino?"
Byron Freeland, attorney for the Arkansas Racing commission explained, "Oaklawn as a practical matter it would be considered a casino, but legally in Arkansas, they can only provide electronic games of skill."
Right now, Oaklawn doesn't have the slot machines or table games you would see at casinos in neighboring states, but now that the casino measure has passed, it can expand to a full-scale casino. “They also can have sports wagering at Oaklawn and Southland they can also serve alcohol complimentary drinks," said Freeland.
But since Oaklawn isn't required to make these changes under the law, who decides if any changes will take place? "The franchise holders of the owners of Oaklawn and southland would make the decision whether to add the additional games that are not electronic games of skill,” said Freeland.
The state has also authorized licenses for casinos in Jefferson and Pope counties. The racing commission now has 120 days to issue rules and regulations to set up the license application process.
“Interested operators will have to demonstrate experience that they're qualified operators. they will have to have written support from these municipalities both the county and city level," said Nate Steel with Driving Arkansas Forward. Afterward, they can apply with the racing commission. However, more parameters are still expected to be set by the general assembly.
"This is a constitutional amendment so its very broad the general assembly will still need to some legislation relating to this but the broad strokes are taken care of in the amendment," said Steel.
As for a timeline for the new casinos, Arkansans can expect to engage in casino gaming in certainly before this time next year.
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