Arkansas 2018 Ballot Issue 4: A Tale of Four Casinos

Books on law cases, several in a row on a bookshelf.

This November, voters will decide the fate of Ballot Issue 4, a proposal to require the state to license four casinos, one in each of four pre-specified locations. The proposal, if passed, would amend the Arkansas Constitution with a new section. This ballot issue is considered voter initiated since petitions for voters’ signatures were obtained and submitted. For comparison, the other method for issues making it on an Arkansas ballot is legislative referral.

Ballot Issue 4: State Vote for Four Localities

Ballot Issue 4 proposes a constitutional amendment that requires the state to license casinos in these pre-specified locations: Garland County (at Oaklawn Jockey Club), Crittenden County (at Southland Racing Corporation), Pope County (either in Russellville or within two miles of its city limits), and Jefferson County (either in Pine Bluff or within two miles of its city limits). If the casino is to locate in the city limits, the mayor must write a letter of support for it. Otherwise, the county judge and quorum court must support it.

In Pope County, residents urged their quorum court to pass a resolution that would require voter approval before county officials would write a letter of support for a casino; the quorum court obliged. Residents in Jefferson County will have the entire state make the decision for them.

Ballot Issue 4: Casino Requirements and Oversight

This proposal’s requirement for a casino operator is to have experience running such an operation. The Arkansas Racing Commission would oversee the casinos. The ballot issue proposes few specifics for requirements and regulations.

Ballot Issue 4: Tax Rates and Tax Allocation

The proposed casino taxes would be 13% on the first $150 million net gambling proceeds and then 20% thereafter. Of that, 55% would go to the State of Arkansas General Revenue Fund; 17.5% to the Arkansas Racing Commission; 19.5% to the city (if the casino locates in city limits); and 8% to the county. If the casino locates outside the city limits, then the county gets the 19.5% plus its 8%.

Ballot Issue 4: More to Consider Than Gambling and Jobx

Many discussions of this issue turn to economics, crime, and personal pitfalls. Debates over job creation and how long new job growth lasts are commonplace. Whether casinos’ presence correlates with increased crime or decreased property values also garners a fair amount of attention. And the health problem if gambling addiction, seen as a moral issue by some, registers high as a discussion topic.

However, more fundamental considerations are warranted. Ballot Issue 4 proposes to amend the state constitution by adding a section requiring licenses for business concerns. A constitution is a document that lays the foundation for governmental authority, limitations, and duties as well as citizens’ rights and duties. Also, voters statewide will decide the fate of this ballot issue that directly affects four of the state’s 75 counties.

Related Information

For an overview provided by the State of Arkansas, visit this summary of initiatives and referenda provided by the Secretary of State’s office.

Also link to the Arkansas Constitution. Whether in this election or future ones, always give serious thought to the difference between the state’s constitution bersus law (i.e., code or legislation). Of course, any ballot issue is important, as is any law or constitution amendment. But the constitution is a more fundamental document and is more difficult to change than a regular law.


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