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story.lead_photo.caption The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen UNDER CONSTRUCTION: A backhoe dumps a load of dirt into a truck Wednesday in the parking lot at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming as part of improvement projects that have been taking place since this summer.

Oaklawn Racing and Gaming said Wednesday it intends to "move forward" following Tuesday's passage of Issue No. 4, which would allow full-fledged casino gaming at the race track.

The Sentinel-Record/File photo GAMES OF SKILL: Oaklawn Racing and Gaming opened its extended gaming area in 2015 with more electronic games of skill, as well as a new bar and restaurants. After voters across the state approved Issue No. 4 Tuesday, Oaklawn will be issued one of four casino gaming licenses in Arkansas.

The constitutional amendment authorizes the expansion of gambling at Oaklawn and Southland Gaming and Racing in West Memphis. Both currently offer electronic games of skill.

The amendment also authorizes the state to issue licenses for casinos in Pope and Jefferson counties, provided there is local support from elected officials.

Oaklawn said in a statement released Wednesday that it took no position on the ballot issue prior to the election "since this was a question for voters."

"Now that voters have spoken, Oaklawn will move forward as legislation and regulation permits, and continue with preparations for the 2019 live racing season, which begins January 25," the statement said.

Statewide, 462,438 voted "for" the issue while 392,884 voted "against" it, according to results posted on the Arkansas secretary of state's website as of Wednesday afternoon. In Garland County, Issue No. 4 received 16,256 votes "for" and 13,309 "against."

Alex Gray, counsel for the Driving Arkansas Forward committee, which sponsored the initiated ballot measure, said in Wednesday's edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Arkansans approved the constitutional amendment because they responded to the committee's message of wanting to keep tax dollars in the state and of creating jobs and fostering economic development.

During a town hall meeting at National Park College on Oct. 26, Gov. Asa Hutchinson stated his opposition to Issue No. 4, saying that while the issue was "something you can vote on," that people should not believe the amendment would solve problems with the state's highways.

"There would be some revenue that would come from that," Hutchinson said. "It's hard to measure how much that would be and it will be a while before that comes in."

Hutchinson said his opposition was not for moral reasons in a sense of right and wrong, but in the economics of the issue and "where that leads in terms of increased services, increased challenges."

The governor reiterated his opposition to the casino amendment in a written statement on Tuesday, saying, "I did not support this initiative, and I continue to have great concern over the immediate and negative impact on the state's budget.

"But the people have spoken, and I respect their will. Time will tell as to what this means for our state, and it remains to be seen as to whether the communities affected will consent to the gambling initiative."

Improvements being made to the parking lot at the south end of Oaklawn's extended gaming area are not related to Issue No. 4, Jennifer Hoyt, media relations manager, said Wednesday.

Hoyt said the work has been taking place since early October and was planned as part of the track's overall improvement plan last summer.

"Basically, this is just routine maintenance," she said, adding these improvements have been necessary since the 2015 opening of the extended gaming area.

"We do want to stress that everything is open and we do have increased shuttle service that will take people from the parking lot right up to the front doors," she said. "We're going to have more parking for the live meet. This is just part of the overall plan with our new barns and new winner's circle, all to improve the overall fan experience."

Local on 11/08/2018

Print Headline: Oaklawn to 'move forward' after vote

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