CASINO TO OPERATE IN PINE BLUFF?
But first, the casino gambling issue must be placed on the November ballot, approved by voters, and the financial backers will have to apply for and receive a state license to operate.
Don Tilton, an Arkansas lobbyist who is representing the Quapaw tribe, which is a substantial financial backer of the proposed Jefferson County casino, said that “any of our financial interests moving forward, if we were selected as the entity to own and operate a casino in Jefferson County, any of those interests are represented within the City of Pine Bluff.”
Tilton is also the chairman of the Driving Arkansas Forward Committee, which collected signatures to place the casino measure on the November ballot. Proposed constitutional amendments need 84,859 signatures from registered voters to qualify.
The secretary of state’s office is reviewing signature petitions the group submitted earlier this month for the proposal.
The group’s proposal would legalize gambling at a Hot Springs horse track and a West Memphis dog track, where video poker and other electronic games are already offered, as well as legalize casinos in Jefferson and Pope counties.
Meanwhile, Driving Arkansas Forward reported Monday that it has about $537,000 cash on hand to campaign for its proposed constitutional amendment.
The group reported spending $715,711 last month, including $385,728 for advertising. Most donations came from the Downstream Development Authority of the Quapaw Tribe and Cherokee Nation Businesses LLC.
Tilton said the group has done “very well at gathering signatures. It is our belief that we will meet the thresholds in order for the secretary of state to respond and say we have met the requirements.”
Tilton also said that despite wording on the proposed constitutional amendment that says the casino is “to be located in Jefferson County within two miles of Pine Bluff,” any casino built in the county would be inside the city limits of the county seat. He said wording the ballot that way gave his group a “flexibility of land choices.”
Caleb McMahon, director of economic development for the Jefferson County Alliance and Chamber, said that confidentiality agreements prevent him from discussing specifics of the issue, but he said that “anything Mr. Tilton said should be taken as fact,” inferring that Tilton’s statement about locating the casino in Pine Bluff is true.
Fifty-five percent of the tax receipts from the new casinos would go to state general revenue fund and 17.5 percent to the state Racing Commission, which would issue the casino licenses, for purses for live horse and greyhound racing and the rest to city and county governments where the casinos are located.
When the casino issue was first announced several months ago, Driving Arkansas Forward had said tax receipts would go toward fixing Arkansas highways; however, it was determined by the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office that the wording of that proposal was too complicated, said Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for Driving Arkansas Forward.
“The capital required to build the facility alone will be in excess of $300 million,” Tilton said.
“This is not some fly-by-night issue. We are talking about 1,000 permanent jobs and up to 1,000 workers needed to build the facility. We will do this the right way. Jefferson County and Pine Bluff are part of the Quapaw homeland and the cultural conviction of that tribe. They want to do this in their homeland.”
Some in the city have said that they are concerned the casino won’t be built in Pine Bluff, but rather in White Hall.
“That’s not the case,” Tilton assured