Casino initiative creates uncertain revenue forecast
The city of Hot Springs said it has not projected how the casino gaming amendment voters approved Tuesday night will affect general fund revenues.
Oaklawn Racing and Gaming will be granted one of four casino gaming licenses under the amendment to the state Constitution. The city and Garland County will receive a percentage of the tax applied to net casino gaming receipts, according to the ballot title voters approved. They currently receive a percentage of net wagering revenues, which are defined as wagers less winnings.
The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration said under Oaklawn’s current games-of-skill license, the city and county receive 1.5 and 0.5 percent, respectively, of net wagering revenues. The state receives
18 percent, a cut DFA said generated
$64.3 million during the fiscal year that ended June 30.
The city finance department said Wednesday the general fund has received $1,652,921 from the games-ofskill tax since the first of the year. The
5-percent increase the finance department projects for next year raises the city’s expected share to $2,264,500. The city said it has not formally projected revenues for the tax and distribution formula stipulated in the amendment.
Garland County’s 2018 budget projected $525,000 in revenue from the county’s percentage of Oaklawn’s net gaming receipts.
According to the ballot title approved Tuesday night, the city and county will receive a percentage of the tax levied on Oaklawn’s net casino gaming receipts. The amendment applies a 13-percent tax to the first $150 million of net gaming receipts during the fiscal year, with the city receiving 19.5 percent of the tax and the county getting 8 percent. The levy increases to 20 percent on receipts of more than $150 million.
The state general fund will get 55 percent of the tax, and the Arkansas
Racing Commission Purse and Awards Fund will get 17.5 percent of the tax receipts generated by all four casino licensees. The Racing Commission will license Oaklawn and Southland Racing Corp. in West Memphis automatically. Applications will have to be submitted for licenses the amendment reserves for Pope and Jefferson counties.
The Driving Arkansas Forward ballot question committee that organized the casino initiative was supported by the Downstream Development Authority of the Quapaw Tribe and Cherokee Nation Businesses LLC, according to financial reports the committee filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission.
The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma owns and operates the Downstream Casino Resort in Quapaw, Okla., and Cherokee Nation Businesses own Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa. Financial reports show they contributed almost $5.9 million of the $6.9 million spent on the casino advocacy campaign through Oct. 27.
City voters narrowly approved games of skill at Oaklawn in a 2005 special election enabled by the Legislature’s passage of a local ballot option for games of skill at horse racing and greyhound racing parks. The license, according to the 2005 statute that authorized the local election, allows Oaklawn to offer games “played through any electronic device or machine that afford an opportunity for the exercise of skill or judgment where the outcome is not completely controlled by chance alone.”
The amendment defines casino gaming more broadly than the games of skill language.
DFA said it expects Oaklawn and Southland to be licensed by July 1. The tax and distribution formula stipulated in the amendment will take effect at that time, DFA said.