In an effort to prevent the legalization of casinos in three Arkansas counties, a group opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment filed a lawsuit with the Arkansas Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The lawsuit was filed by The Committee to Protect Arkansas’ Values/Stop Casinos Now just days after Arkansas Wins in 2016, the group responsible for the amendment, began to air statewide television ads touting the measure as a way to boost both tourism and economic development in the state. The legal challenge is the latest attempt to disqualify measures from the upcoming November ballot.
The group opposed to the ballot measure wants the high court to prevent state officials from counting any of the votes in favor of the constitutional amendment. The lawsuit filed by the group claims that the language of the ballot title, which was approved by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on June 1, misleads voters into believing that it would allow wagering on sports events at the new casinos in spite of the fact that federal law prohibits it, and that it fails to comprehensively convey to voters the consequences of the measure. The suit also claims that Arkansas Wins in 2016 failed to follow state law for reporting paid canvassers, according to the Bradenton Herald.
Interests from the construction, economic, and financial sectors, as well as Cherokee Nation Entertainment, are backing the efforts of Arkansas Wins in 2016 to get the amendment passed that would allow casinos in Washington, Boone, and Miller counties. After being granted a 30-day extension to gather the additional signatures necessary to get the measure on the November ballot, the group managed to collect over 100,000 signatures. However, the opposition group’s chairman, Chuck Lange, said, “There are too many flaws in the way the signatures were gathered and too much uncertainty about how it affects our state’s ability to manage what kind of gaming we want in Arkansas,” and, “This amendment is not worthy to be included in our constitution and we believe it needs to be struck from the ballot,” as reported by the news agency.
Robert Coon with Impact Management, a local PR firm hired by Arkansas Wins in 2016 to aid the effort, said that he is confident that the ballot proposal will survive the suit. Coon said, “This is just an attempt by a group that has previously received millions of dollars from the gaming monopoly in Arkansas to restrict competition,” according to the news agency.
A fundraising report has yet to be filed by the group challenging the measure, and according to the news agency, its spokesman has declined to say if its supporters include West Memphis dog tracks or a Hot Springs horse track. While casino gambling is strictly prohibited in Arkansas, the law does allow facilities that have parimutuel wagering on dog and horse races to also offer electronic games of skill, which are currently only offered at Southland Park Gaming & Racing in West Memphis and Oaklawn Park Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs. Similar casino measures were opposed by both tracks four years ago.