November 8, 2016 is going to be one of the most momentous days in the history of the United States as voters go to the polls to determine many things, including who will replace President Barack Obama as the nation’s leader – Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. But beyond that, the people of 26 states, plus Washington D.C., will review special referendums on the ballot, and 4 of them will shape the future of gambling in their respective states.
In Arkansas, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island, successful petitions over the previous months have determined that citizens are at least willing to consider altering the current laws that define local wagering activities. As voting on these referendums is now exactly one month away, we’ll take a closer look at each one.
Up To 3 New Casinos in Arkansas?
In Arkansas, voters will decide Yay or Nay on Issue 5, a referendum that seeks to allow up to 3 new casinos in the state. If approved, the amendment would authorize gaming licenses to be issued in the Counties of Boone, Miller and Washington.
Arkansas only has two licensed racinos at the moment; one at Oaklawn Park Racing & Gaming, and another at Southland Park Racing & Gaming. These racinos currently offer games that include electronic “slot machines” (that look like slots, but operate like bingo), electronic table games and electronic poker tables.
While the petition was immensely successful, garnering near 15,000 more signatures than required, there’s strong opposition from groups who have filed suit in the Arkansas Supreme Court over irregularities. The court will now decide if the referendum’s votes will even be counted.
A Second Slots Parlor in Massachusetts?
In 2011, Massachusetts opened its doors to gambling for the first time, permitting 3 resort casino licenses and 1 slots parlor license. Plainridge Park in Plainville, MA received the slots parlor license and opened in 2015. Two of the three casino resort licenses went to MGM Springfield and Wynn Boston Harbor in Everett, where they are still under construction.
The future of gambling in the state rests on a ballot referendum known as Question 1, in which voters will decide if a second slots parlor license should be awarded. If yes, the new slots parlor will most likely be built in Revere, just a few miles across the river from Wynn Boston Harbor.
2 New Casinos In North New Jersey?
Since 1976, New Jersey law has stipulated that casino gambling may only exist in Atlantic City. Now, four decades later, citizens will finally have a choice in whether casinos should exist elsewhere, specifically in North Jersey, near the border of New York.
If approved, the ballot referendum, labeled Public Question 1, would allow legislators to pass laws authorizing two northern counties to have one casino each.
In the last two years, Atlantic City has seen 4 of its 12 casinos shut down, with a 5th scheduled for closure just two days from now. If the referendum succeeds, existing operators in Atlantic City would have first rights to bid for the licenses, which require a proposal within 6 months of the new law’s passage, and a minimum $1 billion investment in the new property.
Gambling Facility in Tiverton, Rhode Island?
In Rhode Island, voters will decide on Question 1, which asks if the state should authorize a casino in the town of Tiverton. The casino would belong to Twin River Management Group, which already operates the state’s two commercial gambling properties; Newport Grand Casino in Newport, RI and Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI.
If approved, the operator would transfer its existing license from Newport Grand Casino to the new facility in Tiverton. In a previous referendum that decided the future of gambling in those two locations, voters in Lincoln approved the installment of table games at Twin River, while voters in Newport rejected the inclusion of table games.
In order to expand its facilities to match that of Twin River Casino – and better compete with the $1 billion tribal casino being built in Taunton, RI by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe – Twin River Management will need to move to a location where residents are more open to slots and tables games.