Casino Referendums Alive in Virginia, Dead in Arkansas
Danville casino in voters’ hands
Casino ballot initiatives have gone in two different directions in Virginia and Arkansas, as state residents will get to vote in the former, but efforts have died in the latter. Starting in Virginia, a judge signed an order late last week to put a referendum on the November ballot, allowing the residents of Danville to decided if they want a casino.
The Virginia Lottery Board granted pre-certification to the referendum in July, setting up last week’s action. The Danville City Council petitioned the Circuit Court on Tuesday, August 4 and two days later, Judge Joseph Milam signed the order to put the question on the ballot.
“Now it’s in the hands of the citizens, and I’m looking forward to them making a decision,” Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones said. “I’ll live with whatever decision the citizens make.”
Both Jones and Councilman Lee Vogler told the Danville Register & Bee that most of the response they have received has been positive. Vogler added that “very, very small numbers” of people were what he characterized as “apprehensive.”
Caesars tabbed for casino resort
Should the referendum pass, Danville has already lined up Caesars Entertainment as the casino operator. Caesars was selected in May, but the decision process began about two years before that, well before casino gambling was even legalized in Virginia. There are currently no casinos in the state, as casino gambling was just permitted this spring.
Caesars’ plan is to invest $400m into the construction of a casino at the former Dan River Inc. Schoolfield site. It would be a full-fledged casino resort with a 500-room hotel, 3,500 square-foot conference center, dining, and a 2,500-seat “entertainment venue.” The casino would house 2,000 slot machines, 75 tables, a sportsbook, and a 16-table poker room.It is estimated that the casino would create 1,300 jobs, though the positions are fairly low paying, with average annual salaries ranging from $35,000 to $47,000. A study also forecasted a one-time economic impact of 182 jobs and $118.7m from the casino’s construction.
City officials are also looking into expanding the local airport to accommodate an increase in visitors once the casino is built and opened, provided the ballot measure passes.
Arkansas group throws in towel
In Arkansas, a pro-casino group has dropped its bid to get a measure on the ballot to allow for another 16 casinos to be built in the state. Voters approved a 2018 ballot referendum for Amendment 100, which permits casinos in Crittenden, Garland, Jefferson and Pope counties.
Arkansas Wins needed to gather 89,151 signatures on a petition to get its 16-casino proposal on the November ballot. On July 6, the group’s attorney, Todd Wooten, submitted 97,039 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office, signing an affidavit to the fact. But on July 14, Secretary of State John Thurston ruled that Arkansas wins did not properly certify that its paid canvassers had passed criminal background checks and as such, many of the collected signatures were deemed invalid.
The group argued that its paid canvassers passed background checks within 30 days of gathering signatures. On July 23, Thurston followed up by saying that only 58,675 signatures were on the “face of the petition” and thus Arkansas wins did not have enough names.
Arkansas Wins filed a legal challenge to Thurston’s decision, but on Friday, told the state Supreme Court it was dismissing its own case.