Casinos in Arkansas

Casinos in Arkansas

Gambling is considered illegal in Arkansas, a state which is dominated by conservative Christians. Over several years now, any attempt to legalize gambling and opening casinos have been turned down by the authorities. It is one of the few remaining southern states to have vehemently opposed the casino amendment act. Moral conservatives have even prohibited charitable gambling and any game of chance such as bingos and raffles.

Micheal Wasserman, a Texas businessman, through his organization, Arkansas Hotels and Resorts, has been a strong proponent in favor of the casinos. A similar campaign of him in 2006 on account of stiff resistance failed to garner enough support and lost steam midway. But he is back again through his new campaign to ensure the casino bill reach Arkansas ballot. He is seeking the citizens’ signature in an attempt to voice their opinion on the cause. The proposed petition speaks of opening seven casinos, one in each of Boone, Crittenden, Garland, and Jefferson, Miller, Pulaski and Sebastian counties, mostly in the populous parts of the county. It is being also proposed to open the casinos near the state borders to attract players from neighboring states which would contribute to the economic conditions of the state. A 5% state tax on the casino revenue has been mentioned.

But opponents to the bill, who come from strong religious backgrounds, which far outnumbers the proponents argue that casinos would spell a doom to the state economy as it absorbs all disposable income which people would otherwise spend on groceries, gasoline , cars and houses thus profiting local businesses.

For almost half a century the only legal form of gambling in Arkansas has been the pari-mutuel betting which is regulated by the state. As per pari-mutuel betting, which is quite unlike casino gambling, the players need not be physically present to place their bets, and the bets are not placed on the gambling house but against each other which are then pooled together.

Horse racing at Oaklawn Race Track Park in Hot Springs and grey hound dog racing in Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis are two such activities where pari-mutuel betting is rendered. These activities attract thousands of Arkansans and tourists from nearing states. In 2009 the Oaklawn Race Park was adjudicated the 9th best among 65 thoroughbred race tracks. Southland Greyhound Park hosts around 400 races a year and employs around 650 employees making it the 3rd largest employer in West Memphis.

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