Expanded Gambling to Appear on Arkansas Ballot

The state of Arkansas could see a massive new expanded gambling law take place this fall, and the ultimate decision will be up to the voters. A referendum will appear on the ballots in November, and if it passes, the state could see a large number of new gaming opportunities.

Arkansas Wins 2020 was the name of the campaign to get the expanded gambling referendum on the ballot. The campaign committee has submitted the required 97,000 signatures to the Secretary of State, and it appears that the question will be on the ballots on Nov. 3.

The Secretary of State will now go through each of the signatures on the list and ensure that they are all valid. As long as 89,151 of the signatures are verified, then the referendum will be placed on the ballots.

Arkansas law allows for committees to campaign for ballot referendums, but they must submit a certain number of names before a certain date. The exact number is 10 percent of the number of people that voted in the previous gubernatorial election.

Arkansas Wins 2020 is looking to bring in more tax revenue for the state, as well as add a large number of jobs to the economy. The state would also see a huge boost in tourism if the ballot referendum is passed and new casinos are built.

Arkansas Changing Laws Quickly

This isn’t the first time that a gambling referendum has appeared on the ballots in Arkansas, and recent history tells us that this one will pass. In 2018, voters agreed to pass a referendum that allowed commercial gambling in the state for the very first time.

Issue 4 was the name of that referendum, and it called for four casinos to be built in select areas of the state. One casino license was granted to each of these four counties: Crittenden, Garland, Jefferson and Pope.

The final count on that referendum was 54.1 percent of the voters approved the measure. Arkansas Wins 2020 is counting on that same type of support in 2020, and most experts believe that they will get it.

When Issue 4 was passed, the two racinos that were already up and running in the state were awarded the casino licenses in their state. Southland was awarded the license in Crittenden, and Oaklawn won the bid in Garland.

The Pope County license is still up for debate, and there are two groups that are in an intense battle for it. Gulfside Casino Partnership was initially awarded the license, but one of the commissioners did not vote fairly in the process. The Cherokee Nation also submitted a bid, and the decision now rests with the courts.

The Quapaw Tribe was awarded the license in Jefferson County, and they are planning on building a $350 million resort.

How Many More Casinos on the Way?

Even though the state is already planning on adding two new casinos, the Arkansas Wins 2020 committee isn’t satisfied. If the referendum is passed on Nov. 3, then there could be up to 16 new casinos built throughout the state.

This referendum establishes licensing fees and gross gaming revenue tax rates, and the state could see a huge chunk of money if it passes. Each new casino would pay a $250,000 one-time licensing fee, but that’s just a start.

Gross gaming revenue would be taxed at 13 percent for the first $150 million, and then at 20 percent for everything over that amount. Each casino would also bring in hundreds of new jobs, and Arkansas would likely see a rise in population.


Our in-house expert for all things regulation, Jackson covers all major recent developments across US states relating to gambling laws & legislation.