Arkansas’ Proposed revisions to Casino Gaming Rules
Posted on by
In August 2022, the Fair Play for Arkansas committee narrowly failed to submit enough signatures to get a similar proposal on the 2022 general election ballot, Republican Secretary of State John Thurston said at that time. The Choctaw Nation helped finance the committee.
Arkansas Racing Commission Greenlights Revisions for Casino Gaming Rules
In a decisive move, the Arkansas Racing Commission has officially given the green light to proposed revisions of its casino gaming rules, marking a crucial step in streamlining the regulatory landscape. Commission Chairman, Alex Lieblong of Conway, emphasized the primary goal: “We are aiming for the clearest, widest path to take the ball down and get it across the goal line.”
Turmoil Over Pope County Casino License
The Pope County casino license has been a focal point of controversy, leading to numerous court cases and a substantial impact on both the county and the state. With billions of dollars collectively wagered at the state’s casinos annually, the stakes are high. The genesis of this issue lies in Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution, approved by voters in November 2018, which empowered the Arkansas Racing Commission to license four full-fledged casinos. Presently, three casinos operate in Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, and West Memphis.
Proposed Rule Changes Await Governor’s Approval
The proposed rule changes by the Arkansas Racing Commission require the nod from Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders before initiating a 30-day public comment period. The process will culminate in the Legislative Council’s review. Doralee Chandler, overseeing state agencies, speculates that the commission may approve the revised rules in March, following the public comment period.
Nuanced Scoring Process for Casino License Applications
Commissioner Steve Anthony emphasized the need for precision in the scoring process for casino license applications, noting the importance of avoiding loopholes. Chandler explained that the application scoring process will be subject to discussion, with the total points determining the ranking from highest to lowest. Learning from past experiences, Chairman Lieblong stressed the necessity for an open and constructive conversation about the scoring of applications.
Scrutiny on Application Period and License Renewal
The proposed rule revisions eliminate the clause “except for good cause shown” to prevent potential litigation. Furthermore, the commission will open a new application period if no casino license is awarded, or if a casino license is not renewed, surrendered, revoked, or voided by a court. These changes aim to add clarity to the regulatory framework and prevent legal ambiguities.
Industry Leaders Express Support
Cherokee Nation Businesses Chief Executive Officer, Chuck Garrett, commended the efforts of the Arkansas Racing Commission, highlighting their commitment to ensuring a proper and expedited administrative process. Garrett expressed optimism about their proposed Legends Resort & Casino, emphasizing its potential to be an economic anchor, providing over $5 billion in economic impact over the first 10 years.
Casey Castleberry, counsel for the Gulfside Casino Partnership, appreciates the commission’s efforts in approving new rules. He looks forward to demonstrating Gulfside’s worthiness to the Pope County Quorum Court.
Legal Battles and Public Sentiment
Legal battles surrounding the Pope County casino license have been ongoing, with the Arkansas Supreme Court denying a rehearing in the case. The court ruled that awarding the license to a consortium violated Amendment 100. The decision highlighted the constitutional requirement for a single entity to hold a casino license and the necessity of prior casino experience, a criterion not met by Legends.
Public Advocacy for Constitutional Amendment
In response to these developments, the Arkansans for Local Voices ballot committee filed a statement of organization advocating for a proposed constitutional amendment in the 2024 general election. The amendment aims to repeal the authorization for a casino in Pope County and require a local option vote for any future potential casino locations.
In conclusion, the Arkansas Racing Commission’s proactive steps towards rule revisions demonstrate a commitment to clarity, fairness, and a thriving casino industry in the state. The journey ahead involves navigating legal intricacies, addressing public sentiments, and ensuring a robust regulatory framework for the future.