WEST MEMPHIS, AR (abc24.com) – Is it competition or a monopoly? That's what Arkansas voters may have to decide in a few months.
A pair of petitions that could change the casino industry in Arkansas are a step closer to becoming reality.
Only one of the proposals will stand, but opponents say no one will win if either petition is approved.
One proposal would give Texas businessman Michael Wassermann exclusive rights to run casinos in seven counties. The other proposal would give poker pro Nancy Todd exclusive rights to run casinos in four counties. Both proposals include Crittenden County.
The clock is ticking for what could be the end game for many Arkansas casinos.
The two proposals have more than enough signatures to make it to the November ballot.
“They turned in a little over 80k we're going to go through those and a lot of times they don't make it on the first round but the law affords them to have an additional 30 days to gather signatures,” said Secretary of State Spokesperson Alex Reed.
The proposals are similar: both would allow the respective companies sponsoring them to have a monopoly on casinos, with little to no regulation.
“I don't think that would be a good idea for there to be a monopoly at all,” said Terrie Laubach.
“That's never a good thing. That's basically going back to the days of the mafia, isn't it? Isn't that how they worked?” one traveler noted.
“We're not anti-casino gambling expansion. We're more concerned about this is an unregulated monopoly in the state of Arkansas,” said Troy Keeping, President and General of Southland Park Gaming and Racing.
Keeping believes the lack of regulation could allow new casinos to fix their machines.
“She could put in a slot machine that holds 50 percent of the patrons' money and there's no control over that. And that information is not public,” Keeping said.
He's talking about Nancy Todd, a professional poker player and sponsor of one of the proposals. She claims there would not be anything stopping lawmakers from regulating her casinos.
"(We) expect that the legislature will follow the history that it has in the past and since regulation is not strictly prohibited within the amendment, they will structure something as they did with the lottery," Todd said.
If voters approve either proposal, it could be lights out for casinos up and running now, Southland Park included.
“We're still assessing what the potential impact would be on our business. We know from a Parimutuel Racing standpoint our business is fine. From a gaming standpoint, it depends who you talk to how it would impact us,” Keeping said.
At the very latest, Arkansas' Secretary of State will know by September if those proposals will make it on the November ballot. Voters will head to the polls November 6th.