(Exclusive interview).- Robert Coon, spokesperson for Arkansas Wins in 2016/Arkansas Winning Initiative, Inc. talked with Focus Gaming News about the casino ballot.
Three counties in Arkansas are close to legalise a casino ballot to boost the industry and allow new gaming venues in the region. Although opponents, the group “Stop Casinos Now” have filed a lawsuit to block the bill, Robert Coon, spokesperson for supporters Arkansas Wins in 2016/Arkansas Winning Initiative, Inc. shares a positive assessment about the further steps of the regulation.
Despite recent efforts to block the casino ballot, Arkansas Wins thinks the proposal will survive the challenge. Do you think the validity of the signatures is enough to overshadow the lawsuit?
At its core, our opponents’ suit calls into question the job performance and decision-making process of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Secretary of State Mark Martin, and their staffs. We believe Attorney General Rutledge, Secretary Martin, and their staffs executed their constitutional duties thoroughly and correctly, and that their respective actions and decisions are supported by Arkansas law. We are confident in our signature gathering process, which resulted in more than 100,000 qualified Arkansas voters signing our petitions. Furthermore, the canvassing firm utilized in this effort is a credible, experienced company that works nationwide.
The group “Stop Casinos Now” said that even if they don’t have success with the lawsuit, they will push to sway voters ahead of the November election. Do you think that the fact that the ballot promises to create thousands of good paying jobs will help Arkansas Wins to legalise casino in the three counties?
We have expected for some time that the existing gaming monopoly in Arkansas – Oaklawn and Southland – would mount a campaign to oppose our amendment. Just this week they finally came clean and told Arkansas voters the truth by disclosing that they are funding the “Stop Casinos Now” organization. Their motivation is crystal clear, and it is to preserve the protected monopoly that they currently have on Arkansas gaming. We believe that Issue 5 will not only create thousands of good paying jobs in Arkansas, but it will also increase tourism in Arkansas and generate tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the state of Arkansas and for local cities and counties, while giving Arkansans new restaurant and entertainment options. We believe voters will see the positive impact that Issue 5 will have on Arkansas and reject the anti-competitive and self-interested campaign being run by our opponents.
We are confident in our signature gathering process, which resulted in more than 100,000 qualified Arkansas voters signing our petitions. Furthermore, the canvassing firm utilized in this effort is a credible, experienced company that works nationwide.
If casinos are legalised, what will be the biggest changes in the three counties?
For starters, the citizens of the counties will benefit from job opportunities – both in the construction phase and in the ongoing operation of the casinos – as well as increased tourism and new tax revenue. According to the amendment, the cities and counties where the casinos would be located will receive taxes on net gaming receipts of 1.5% and 0.5% respectively, which we believe will provide estimated annual tax revenues in the millions of dollars for the three counties. Additionally, we believe that a casino will also result in more dining, shopping, and entertainment options for the area, making these counties more attractive places to visit, while increasing tax revenue and enhancing property values.