The state of Arkansas has passed yet another major step toward formally legalizing sports betting and implementing legal casinos.
The Arkansas Racing Commission unanimously approved the parameters for the state’s first legalized casinos. Not only that, but the commission also approved the regulations for such casinos to legally accept sports wagers once established.
These parameters will soon be brought to a legislative review committee for them to receive one final approval before becoming law. The clock is ticking, as these rules must be approved no later than March 14.
However, Arkansas appears to remain in the midst of a somewhat back-and-forth affair. Though these regulations will almost certainly pass through the review committee, multiple groups are reportedly still attempting to prevent the legalization of casino gaming and sports betting in Arkansas.
Those opponents favor building a different hotel and casino combination, which seems unlikely to happen, rather than opposing gambling entirely.
According to a late February report from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a previous proposal from the Gulfside Casino Partnership has some folks in favor of building a 600-room hotel and casino in Russellville, which would cost $254 million. Though the newly revised legislation remains in line to pass, Gulfside Casino Partnership’s attorney, Casey Castleberry, told the Democrat-Gazette that "a lawsuit was on the horizon if the rule was passed as it stood.
"Gulfside is disappointed the Racing Commission adopted these rules, which are in direct violation of the Arkansas Constitution and send valuable gaming revenue to Oklahoma instead of funding our state's highways."
Russellville Mayor Richard Harris isn’t happy about these revisions, either, though there might not be much he can do to stop the process.
"The issue of the proposed language of the rule is important to the citizens of Russellville if we want to make sure that we've got a level playing field in whomever comes into our community to operate a casino, if that happens," Harris told the Democrat-Gazette. "The process that was used for vetting prior to the current administration was not open, was not forthright.
"It did not provide the criteria that they used or the process that was used at that time has not been communicated effectively to the citizens or to the current administration. What this language will do is allow us the opportunity to go into a public type of communication with any and all potential operators to let us select what we feel is best for our community."
If this set of regulations passes from agreed upon legislation to concrete law, Arkansas will encounter its largest legal gaming expansion ever. Arkansans might be able to place a legal sports bet before football season begins in the fall.