LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Horse and dog tracks in Arkansas that offer electronic gambling said Wednesday they are opposed to an effort to legalize casinos in three counties and are supporting a group suing to disqualify the proposal from the November ballot.
The Committee to Protect Arkansas’ Values/Stop Casinos Now announced Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs and Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis were supporting its fight against the proposed amendment. The proposal would allow three companies owned by supporters of the amendment to open casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties.
Officials from the tracks, which offer video poker, blackjack and other electronic “games of skill,” said they opposed the measure even though it wouldn’t affect business at their facilities.
The tracks cited concerns that under the amendment, casino gambling would be defined by what is offered in several other states, including Texas and Oklahoma.
“This is an open invitation to corruption and unimaginable forms of gambling,” Southland President and General Manager Troy Keeping and Oaklawn General Manager Eric Jackson said in a joint statement released by the committee. “Worse, the people who live in communities where casinos will be located are being denied the right to vote on what they want in their own communities.”
Arkansas Wins in 2016, the group campaigning for the casinos measure, called the tracks’ opposition hypocritical and said the measure would help the state increase tourism and create more jobs. The group also noted the casinos would be subject to regulation by a new commission and any laws enacted by the Legislature.
“Arkansas does have a history and tradition when it comes to gaming, unfortunately our tradition is sending jobs, tourism, and tax revenue to other states instead of keeping them here in Arkansas,” Robert Coon, a spokesman for the group, said in an email. “Oaklawn and Southland know full and well the benefits that Issue 5 will bring to the state, but they’re putting their own profits before the best interests of Arkansans.”
The announcement comes a day after the committee asked the state Supreme Court to prevent election officials from counting any votes for the measure in the November election. The lawsuit calls the proposal misleading and accuses the group behind it of not following state law for reporting paid canvassers.
The tracks have opposed previous efforts to legalize casinos in the state. The committee did not say how much the tracks have contributed, and its fundraising report for August is due next week.
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