It was a groundbreaking week for the state of Arkansas, which has opened up its doors to casinos. That’s where we’ll start our weekly recap of the casino headlines:
Arkansas Legalizes Casinos In Four Counties
The midterm elections have come and gone, and while most of the voting was focused on senators and governors, one ballot initiative that flew under the radar was the state of Arkansas’ Issue 4. It put the legalization of casino gambling on the itinerary and the voters passed it. Passage of Issue 4 puts into effect a constitutional amendment that will give casino licenses to four operators in the various counties of the state.
Issue 4 passed with 54 percent of the vote as the thinking behind the initiative was the result of efforts to attempt to prevent gaming revenue from leaving Arkansas. Debates over the amount of money which leaves the state are raging in local Arkansas politics. The extent of the economic impact of the casino industry is a point of contention. But voters sent their message, and now the operators can go to work.
The Southland Racing Commission, the Oaklawn Jockey Club, and two other new applicants for licenses will receive them in four separate state counties.
What the new rules mean is that the aforementioned casinos will be taxed 13 percent on the first $150 million in net gaming receipts and then the tax rate will jump to 20 percent on any amount exceeding that. Officials claim the state could make near $120 million in annual tax revenue, 55 percent of the total being earmarked for the state’s general fund.
Caesars And MGM Exploring Huge Merger
Could two of Las Vegas’ biggest casino businesses be on the verge of a titanic merger? According to a report in the New York Post, they might be.
The Post cited sources that said Caesars and MGM are exploring a merger that would dramatically reshape the casino industry and the climate in Las Vegas. MGM would be looking to acquire Caesars, which has long been battling bankruptcy. The main issue here is that if the merger goes through, it would give MGM a virtual monopoly on The Strip as they’d own about 18-20 casinos.
While this would drastically shake up the Las Vegas landscape, it’s likely that the Federal Trade Commission won’t approve this deal. Caesars would have to be in fairly dire straits, which they no longer are, and the FTC would push them to sell to another buyer. Even so, the fact that the two casino giants are discussing a merger might suggest they’ve already started the conversation with the trade commission.
Wynn Casinos Ditches Lagoon Project
The Wynn Casino in Las Vegas has long been debating what to do with its backyard. In 2016, it announced an ambitious plan to open up a $1.6-billion Paradise Park Lagoon where guests could do watersports during the day and come for a fireworks show in the evening. That project has been ditched, though, as Wynn Casinos will revert back to what was already there and reopen the golf course.
The project for the lagoon was supposed to be completed in time for a January 2020 opening. In short, the Wynn brass realized that they’d make more profit from the golf course than they would from Paradise Park, so they changed direction.
The layout of the golf course will be slightly affected. Original course architect Tom Fazio has been rehired by Wynn to redesign the few holes affected by this plot twist. Although there was some debate about cutting down the course, it will still be 18 holes.