A committee opposed to gaming and sports betting on Monday filed a lawsuit in Arkansas’ Supreme Court asking the court to take a recently approved gaming ballot measure off the Nov. 6 ballot. According to ArkansasOnline.com, the group says the ballot initiative is “misleading and not intelligible, fair and impartial in three particular instances.”
Just last week, the secretary of state’s office announced that the group “Driving Arkansas Forward” had gathered 99,988 signatures, well above the needed 85,000 needed to get an initiative on the ballot, according to Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office. The measure would allow voters to make casino gambling, including sports betting, legal at an existing horse-racing track, greyhound track and two proposed casinos near Russellville and Pine Bluff – on either side of the state capitol of Little Rock.
The racetracks currently offer video gaming. According to the Associated Press, two Indian tribes have each contributed more than $1 million to support the measure.
Sports Betting Would Be Taxed on a Sliding Scale, Starting at 13%, Under Arkansas’ Proposed Casino Gaming Amendment.
In a press conference last week, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson told reporters Wednesday he is opposed to the measure.
Driving Arkansas Forward had a quick and direct response to the lawsuit.
“This lawsuit is not only meritless, but disingenuous, as evidenced by the fact that the attorney for this group … contacted our campaign on multiple occasions during the certification process in support of the amendment,” Driving Arkansas Forward attorney Nate Steel told ArkansasOnline.com. “We believe the attorney general was diligent and correct in reviewing this ballot title, and we have no doubt that it will withstand this legal challenge.”
The amendment, referred to as the “Arkansas Casino Gaming Amendment of 2018” calls for a 13 percent tax on the first $150,000,000 of net casino revenue and 20 percent on any net revenue above that number. The funds would be distributed as follows: 55 percent to the State of Arkansas General Revenue Fund; 17.5 percent to the Arkansas Racing Commission Purse and Awards Fund to be used only for purses for live horse racing at Oaklawn and greyhounds at Southland; 8 percent to the county in which the casino is located, and 19.5 percent to the city or county in which the casino is located.
AK Racetracks Currently Have Video Gaming and ‘Reels’ Similar to Slot Machines.
Both the Southland and Oakland tracks are racinos, and currently have video gaming and “reels” similar to slot machines.
It appears the amendment was drafted before the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was struck down in May, as the language in the proposed amendment reads “Casino licensees may accept wagers on sporting events if and when not prohibited by federal law.”
The Supreme Court deemed PASPA unconstitutional on May 14, and since then Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia have approved properties to up shop for sports betting, while it is legal in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island but no legal sportsbooks have yet opened in either state.
Should the amendment pass, the state’s racing commission would be 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.
The amendment will be listed as “Issue 4” on the November ballot and requires a majority of votes to pass.