A bill that would make wholesale changes to Arkansas’ Issue 4, a gaming amendment that was passed via voter referendum in November, was introduced Tuesday and is set for a hearing before the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday.
The ballot referendum legalized sports betting in Arkansas. Now, SB 498 would change everything from the tax rate to the amount of money earmarked for problem gambling services and for the state horse racing commission to clarifying rules on betting on college sports.
When Issue 4 was passed, it called for the state to issue four casino licenses, including one each to Southland Racing Corporation, located in Crittenden County, and the Oaklawn Jockey Club, located in Garland County.
Key casino requirements removed
Under the amendment, both Southland and Oakland may have casino gaming at casinos “to be located at or adjacent to” their existing facilities. In addition, the measure 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.”
With regard to the casinos in Pope and Jefferson counties, the new bill removes the requirement for a letter of support from a local judge, the need for the support of the local court and a letter of support from a local mayor, instead requiring that approval of a casino in either country be decided by voters. In addition, the bill changes the specific location requirements for the casino.
— Geoff Hawkins (@GeoffHawkinsMSA) March 5, 2019
Should the new bill pass, the regulatory body would become the Arkansas Racing Commission.
Betting on college events in Arkansas prohibited
Related to sports betting, the bill prohibits sports betting on college events taking place in the state, but does appear to allow for betting on college events anywhere else, regardless of whether or not Arkansas teams are playing. The bill does prohibit betting on events involving “amateur athletes,” but does not define what that is.
Other key changes the bill calls for:
- Increasing the tax rate on gaming from 13 percent to 20 percent of the first $150,000,000 of net gaming receipts;
- Increasing the tax rate on gaming from 20 percent to 25 percent on net casino gaming receipts exceeding $150,000,001;
- Increases from 55 percent to 65 percent the amount of tax revenue earmarked for the state’s general fund;
- Decreases from 17.5 percent to 7.5 percent the amount of tax revenue earmarked for the state horse racing commission;
- Increases from $200,000 to $800,000 that the Arkansas Racing Commission must deposit for compulsive gambling treatment and services; and
- Increases from $10,000 to $100,000 the ceiling on the fee for renewing a casino license.