Southland Racetrack Backs Arkansas Casino, Betting Expansion Effort

Proposed casino expansion expected to save the racetrack $86 million in taxes during first three years

Owners of the Southland Park Gaming & Racing greyhound racetrack in West Memphis have poured $50,000 into the ongoing campaign for casino expansion in Arkansas, local news outlet the Arkansas Times reports.

The campaign is carried out by the Driving Arkansas Forward group and proposes an amendment to the state’s Constitution to allow for the addition of casino-style gaming at the Southland and Oaklawn Park racetracks and for the construction of two new casinos in the Pope and Jefferson Counties. Said amendment is set to appear on the November 6 ballot as Issue 4.

Donating $50,000 to the initiative, the Southland racetrack has officially stated its support for the proposed casino gaming expansion in the state. Indian gaming corporations have so far been the main donors of Driving Arkansas Forward, the Arkansas Times notes in an opinion piece from this weekend.

According to the news outlet, the financial and other benefits Southland will reap from the potential addition of casino gaming at the existing racetrack have been what has encouraged the property’s owners to back Issue 4.

If the proposed amendment gains the necessary support, it will reduce the tax rate on the Oaklawn Park and Southland racetracks from 18% on annual net gaming revenue to 13%. This would result in a combined annual tax cut of $36 million at the two properties at each of the next two financial years and nearly $14 million in year three.

The amendment also proposes the legalization of sports betting, following the mid-May move of the US Supreme Court to strike down a long-standing federal ban on wagering on professional and amateur sporting events.

Last but not least, the amendment, if approved by state voters on November 6, will allow for the addition of Las Vegas-style casino gambling options at the two properties. Diversification and expansion of Southland’s current offering could save the racetrack. As mentioned earlier, it features dog races. However, the activity has been gaining less and less interest, has been condemned by different humane groups, and has been banned in multiple states. So, it might be a just a matter of time that similar actions are taken in Arkansas, as well.

Issue 4 to Bring $6-Billion Increase in Economic Activity

According to a recent study commissioned by Driving Arkansas Forward and compiled by the Arkansas Economic Development Institute, the proposed gambling expansion in the state would result in an increase of $5.8 billion in economic activity over the next decade and would create 6,000 new jobs.

Despite the economic benefits promised, the amendment has gained quite some opposition over the past several months. Most recently, a group opposing the proposed gambling expansion has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mark Martin, contending that the amendment’s popular name and ballot title are misleading and omit information that could create significant confusion for voters at the November 6 ballot.

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