Arkansas AG Asks Court to Side with Her in Ongoing Dispute with Casino Group

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked the state’s Supreme Court to reject a request to force her to give the nod to the wording of a ballot measure that, if approved, would allow for the establishment of up to four casinos across the state.

The Driving Arkansas Forward group filed a petition earlier this week asking the Supreme Court to intervene after having the ballot information for the casino constitutional amendment rejected for the fourth time by the AG.

Driving Arkansas Forward is one of two groups currently seeking to amend the state’s Constitution in a manner that would allow for the construction of casinos. The Arkansas Casino Gaming and Highway Funding Amendment of 2018, the casino legalization effort promoted by the group, would allow for the addition of casino gaming at the existing Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis and Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and the construction of two new casinos in Pope and Jefferson Counties.

The opening of casino gambling facilities is expected to create new jobs and produce revenue for the state. Driving Arkansas Forward proposes that a big portion of the tax revenue generated by the new gaming venues be used for improvements and maintenance of Arkansas’ highway system. Host municipalities would also receive contributions. According to initial estimates, four casinos could annually generate around $45 million for the Department of Transportation.

Driving Arkansas Forward has been seeking to put the measure on the November ballot. However, under state law, the popular name and the ballot title of a proposed amendment to the Constitution first needs approval from the state’s Attorney General so that the group behind it is able to proceed with the signature gathering process.

Driving Arkansas Forward will need to collect 84,859 valid signatures by July 6, if it wants to put its proposal on this year’s ballot.

Properly Rejected

In a Friday statement, AG Rutledge said that she had rejected the measure’s wording properly. This was the fourth time that Driving Arkansas Forward had its proposal for a constitutional amendment rejected by the Attorney General.

AG Rutledge also asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the group’s petition from earlier this week to force her into giving the green light to the ballot measure.

In a separate statement from a few days ago, Ms. Rutledge defended her decision by explaining that she found four different issues with the wording of the measure. She further pointed out that the popular title and the ballot name should not contain any ambiguities and that voters should be able to understand easily what they are asked to approve or reject.

AG Rutledge also referred to the Supreme Court which “has set a very hard standard” for the certification of a ballot proposal and that she considered it her responsibility to follow that standard.

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