In November 2018, the residents of Arkansas endorsed a constitutional amendment, ushering in an era of casino gambling in the state. This amendment allowed the state to issue up to four casino licenses. As a result, three casinos have been established, providing gaming opportunities in Crittenden, Jefferson, and Garland Counties.
Regrettably, the allocation of the fourth casino license for Pope County became entangled in a prolonged legal wrangle involving two contenders: Legends Resort and Casino and Gulfside Casino Partnership. This dispute stalled the prospect of a fourth state casino.
However, the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC), the state’s gambling regulator, is on the verge of resolving this issue and awarding the fourth casino license. This would involve crafting a new set of criteria for evaluating license applicants.
The Process for Casino License Assessment
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette recently reported that the ARC has approved the revision of casino license assessment rules. This revision is a significant step towards issuing the Pope County casino license, thereby completing Arkansas’s casino expansion project.
Before the process begins, the newly proposed rules require approval from Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Once sanctioned, the Commission will open a 30-day window for interested parties to submit their bids.
Scoring Will Help Determine the Winning Casino License Bidder
The ARC plans to eliminate a current rule allowing late applications post the 30-day period. This clause, deemed litigation-prone by Deputy Attorney Doralee Chandler, will be scrapped to ensure fairness. After the application period concludes, submitted proposals will be evaluated through a scoring system.
Commissioner Steve Anthony emphasized the need for a transparent scoring process without loopholes. Responding to his query about the specifics of this process, Chandler mentioned that the creation of a scoring matrix and rubric would be a collaborative effort, allowing for a comprehensive evaluation of each application.
The assessment will culminate in ranking each application from the lowest to the highest score. The bidder with the highest score will be awarded the fourth and final casino license, based on the new criteria.
Anticipated Impact of the New Casino License on Arkansas’s Gaming Landscape
This development in the awarding of the Pope County casino license is a landmark moment in Arkansas’s gaming history. The introduction of a fourth casino is poised to significantly enhance the state’s gambling landscape, offering more options for gaming enthusiasts and potentially boosting the local economy. With the ARC’s revised rules and a transparent scoring system, the process promises a fair and competitive environment for bidders. If the process proceeds without any setbacks, Arkansas could see the establishment of its fourth casino within the year, marking a new chapter in the state’s gaming and entertainment sector.