Sports Betting Coming to Arkansas? Voters May Decide

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Published on:
Sep/11/2018

Voters are set to decide whether sports betting should be legalized in the state of Arkansas.

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An amendment on the ballot this Election Day in Arkansas seeks to expand gambling in the state.  This will include sports betting.

But a committee opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment to authorize four casinos in Arkansas has asked the state Supreme Court to strike the proposal from the Nov. 6 general election ballot.  That committee is calling itself Ensuring Arkansas' Future.  Four of its members are plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed with the high court by attorney Scott Trotter, of Little Rock, against Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin.

This lawsuit challenging the casino proposal means that the state Supreme Court will decide whether to block four of the five proposed measures on the ballot.

From the Sentinel-Record:

The proposed amendment would allow the state Racing Commission to issue casino licenses to: an applicant in Jefferson County within 2 miles of Pine Bluff; an applicant in Pope County within 2 miles of Russellville; a franchise holder in Crittenden County, which is now Southland Racing Corp., at or adjacent to Southland Gaming and Racing in West Memphis; and a franchise holder in Garland County, which is now Oaklawn Jockey Club, at or adjacent to Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs.

Under current state law, Oaklawn and Southland operate electronic games of skill, so the measure would allow for expansion of their gambling operations, including sports betting.

The Ensuring Arkansas' Future committee's lawsuit said the high court should strike Issue 4 from the ballot or bar the secretary of state from canvassing or certifying any ballots cast for the proposal. The committee cited problems with Issue 4's popular name and ballot title. Both are the language that appears on the ballot for voters to read when voting.

The lawsuit said Issue 4's popular name is misleading and not intelligible, fair and impartial in three particular instances.

While it is too soon to determine whether voters would even vote in favor of expanded gambling, should it win out, regulators would begin accepting Arkansas sports betting applications prior to June 1, 2019.  With this in mind, there is a slight chance that Arkansas would have legalized sports betting in place by the 2019 College Football season.

- Aaron Goldstein, Gambling911.com

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