Over three years after voters in the Natural State approved a constitutional amendment to allow racetracks in the state to convert into “racinos,” Arkansas’s responsible gambling funding and initiatives seem to be getting off the ground finally. It looks like a lawsuit might have forced the action, raising many questions about how prepared regulators in the state are as it considers more gaming expansion.
The lawsuit argues that the state’s regulatory body has not fulfilled its duties as responsible gambling programs go. Recent Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the state legislature have done little to belay those concerns.
The latest on Arkansas responsible gambling funding
For the current year, constitutionally mandated funding is present. However, there’s more to that story. According to Michael R. Wickline of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports, that happened because Hutchinson requested a transfer of the necessary $200,000 from the state’s rainy-day fund.
Amendment 100 to the state’s constitution specifies that funding should come from the AR Racing Commission, not the state’s general reserves. A lawsuit argues that the Racing Commission has failed to fulfill that duty each year since its inception.
Wickline reported even earlier this month that AR resident FaNeisha Yavette Mosley brought her complaint to state court. She’s asking the court to find the Commission in violation of the Constitution on that matter.
Furthermore, it asks the court to order the Commission to make reparations on its “back taxes.” It also points out that the Commission has failed on a related front. That’s part of the sudden springing to life.
State regulators finally seeking required contract bids
Shortly after Mosley filed their lawsuit, Hutchinson made the funds request. In Wickline’s reporting, a spokesperson for the AR Dept. of Finance and Administration said the request was unrelated to the litigation.
However, with the necessary financing in place, the state government finally sought bids from a company to provide it with gambling treatment services. Again, that’s a requirement of Amendment 100.
According to the Finance spokesperson, the focus is on identifying a partner who can fulfill those duties. The department has given no timeline as to when it might select a winning bid.
That means for three years. Casino gaming has gone on in AR on a new scale without the privilege-tax-supported responsible gambling services citizens voted for. It also raises many questions about the state’s readiness to take on even more regulatory burdens.
Are Arkansas regulators ready for more?
Looking back, AR residents seem well within their rights to present their state government with some questions, including:
- Why has it taken so long to even get a call for bids out to potential vendors for problem gambling treatment?
- Why did the Racing Commission approve casino licenses without such programs in place?
- Where has the $200,000 in casino revenue tax each year that was supposed to fund such programs gone?
- Will the Commission reimburse the rainy-day fund for the $200,000?
Furthermore, looking forward, there are more issues. Earlier this year, the state legislature considered a bill that expanded Arkansas sports betting onto the Internet. The issue might come back up next year as well.
While bettors in AR might be ready for mobile and online wagering, the state might not be. Hopefully, responsible gambling programs will materialize in AR soon. Until that happens, though, that should be the foremost concern of gambling regulators in the state.