Arkansas Petition Seeks Voter Referendum for Casino Expansion


Quite a bit is on the line for this November’s general election. At the top of the list is the vote for President of the United States. Former Vice President Joe Biden will represent the Democrats against Republican incumbent Donald Trump.

Another heated issue in the state of Arkansas is a potential referendum vote for land-based casino expansion. A local constitutional amendment would pave the way for an additional 16 casinos in the state. Part of the package would be a pair of new casinos in the heavily populated area of Little Rock and West Memphis.

This initiative has a ways to go before any expansion takes place. The process is still at the petition stage. However, a progressive gambling group called Arkansas Wins in 2020 Incorporated has officially submitted one for consideration.

According to a recent report from the Arkansas Democratic-Gazette, the petition is hoping that the state government will add a casino referendum to this November’s ballot so the state can operate more casinos. Perhaps this will also pave the way for legal online gambling and sports betting with sportsbooks such as FanDuel Sportsbook, Borgata and Caesars Sportsbook.

Known as ‘The Natural State’, this local news source added that the petition was submitted to the office of Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston. It is believed that close to 100,000 state residents have added their name to the list.

The existing threshold for petitions of this nature is 89,151 for serious consideration, so this group does have a good chance at moving its referendum initiative forward. The next part of the process is checking the authenticity of each signature. This process also has to confirm that at supporters live in at least 15 of the state’s 75 counties.

If the petition is deemed to be legitimate according to the verification process, it must clear a few more hurdles. The biggest task at hand is gaining consent from the Arkansas State Board of Elected Commissioners. They will have to approve the addition of a voter referendum on this November’s ballot.

There also needs to be some common ground on how the actual wording of the referendum will be presented to voters. This was referred to as “a popular name for its question” in the news report.

This lobbying group is hoping the state’s constitution will be altered to allow the Arkansas Racing Commission to issue new gaming licenses. One new casino license would be issued in 12 different counties. That number would increase to two in Pulaski County covering Little Rock. There would also be two issued for Crittenden County to cover West Memphis.

Also stated in the news report were the results of the last referendum on gambling in the state. Back in 2018, voters narrowly approved a measure that authorized the addition of four new casinos. Over time, this might open up the state for online casinos such as 888 Casino, Golden Nugget Casino and Hollywood Casino

The two new Las Vegas-style gaming venues in the area of West Memphis were Southland Park Gaming and Racing along with Oaklawn Racing and Gaming. Oklahoma’s Quapaw Nation is currently building its Saracen Resort Casino. This $350 million casino project is being constructed in Jefferson County, which is primarily rural in nature.
The state currently has five casinos up and running across four major population centers.

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