Arkansas voters on Tuesday legalized sports betting in the only mid-term election ballot initiative in the country dealing directly with sports betting. The initiative appeared on the ballot as Issue 4, a measure to amend the state constitution to license casinos and also to allow sports betting.
As of 7 am ET on Wednesday, with 99 percent of votes counted, 54.1 percent of voters voted “yes” and 45.9 percent “no” to authorizing casinos to operate in four counties — and offer sports betting.
Arkansas becomes the second state in its region to legalize sports betting after Mississippi did so last summer and now the 7th state outside Nevada to legalize. None of its other border states offer legal sports betting, though Oklahoma, Missouri and Louisiana all have commercial or tribal casinos. Arkansas is the seventh state outside of Nevada to legalize sports betting behind Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
Arkansas Legalizes Sports Betting by Approving 4 Casinos in the State. The Arkansas Racing Commission Will Regulate Gaming
The amendment automatically grants sports betting licenses to the existing Southland Racing Corporation, located in Crittenden County, and the Oaklawn Jockey Club, located in Garland County. Under the amendment, both Southland and Oakland may have casino gaming at casinos “to be located at or adjacent to” their existing facilities. The Southland greyhound track is located in West Memphis, Ark., just across the river from Memphis, Tenn., and Oaklawn is a horse racing track located in the Ouachita Mountains, a tourist and vacation spot.
In addition, the amendment allows for two additional gambling licenses to be awarded to applicants in “Pope County within two miles of Russellville,” and in “Jefferson County within two miles of Pine Bluff.” While Southland and Oaklawn will be awarded licenses automatically, and, it appears, without paying an application fee, the remaining two licenses will require an application fee. The amount of the fee is not laid out in the amendment, but it does specify that the fee cannot exceed $250,000.
Casino gaming, including sports betting, will be taxed at a rate of 13 percent for the first $150 million in net casino receipts and 20 percent on net receipts above $150 million.
According to an Associated Press report, two Oklahoma Indian tribes spent $4 million to campaign for the passage of Issue 4. Oklahoma, which borders Arkansas to the west, does not have legal sports betting, but does have more than 60 tribal casinos, including the WinStar World Casino, which recently partnered with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The deal allows the casino to use the Cowboys logos and trademarks.
Issue 4 landed on the ballot after a group called “Driving Arkansas Forward” collected just under 100,00 signatures, well above the 85,000 required by the state to put a measure on the ballot. The measure survived several attempts at having it removed from the ballot.
The state’s racing commission will now become the regulatory body and would begin accepting casino applications no later than June 1, 2019. The Arkansas Racing Commission would be able to set the licensing fee, though the amendment would cap it at $250,000.