Attorney General Rejects Arkansas Casino Expansion Proposal for the Second Time

Arkansas state attorney general Leslie Rutledge has once again rejected the casino expansion proposal by pro-casino group Driving Arkansas Forward. The proposed change is planned for the November ballot and if approved, it would allow new casinos to be opened in Jefferson and Pope counties.

The latest proposal was submitted on March 1 by a law firm but was initially formulated by a citizens group called Driving Arkansas Forward, which is campaigning for the legalization of commercial casinos. According to them, the 12 per cent of casino’s gross revenue would be shared with the state and these funds would be used for improving the transport infrastructure, hence the name of the citizen’s group. In order for this proposal to become a reality, however, it needs to find its way to the upcoming ballot in November where voters will decide its fate.

The first step of this process is seeking the approval of the state attorney general, who is supposed to only approve or reject the title and the wording of the measure in its ballot title and popular name. On Monday, state attorney general Leslie Rutledge rejected the proposal on the grounds of ambiguity. According to her, the title of the proposed constitutional amendment was too lengthy and ambiguous and could mislead voters.

In her response, published on March 12, 2018, Rutledge explains in detail that various additions or changes to the popular name and ballot title are necessary and that the proposal should be summarized in a better way. Many terms also need to be specified, she adds, while some of the messages and ideas in the measure do not have a clear meaning and are open to interpretation.

This is the second time Rutledge rejects the proposed constitutional amendment – the first try was rejected due to ambiguities and for the fact that it did not include the currently existing racetracks, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and Southland Park in West Memphis. After the two venues were added to the latest proposal, Rutledge once again did not certify the submission.

Is There a Hope for Casino Expansion in Arkansas?

The Natural State is currently home to only two racetrack pari-mutuels, Oaklawn and Southland Park, which, beyond horse and dog racing, offer only one type of automated games, known as electronic games of skill. According to the latest proposal, submitted by the law firm of Steel, Wright, Gray and Hutchinson, the two racetracks would be allowed to offer a variety of additional games.

Also, two new commercial casinos would be opened in Jefferson and Pope counties. It is expected that the Quapaw and Cherokee tribes would support a potential casino project in Jefferson. Of course, it is still unclear whether the proposal would become a reality or not, as it is conditional on many things. While it was rejected twice by the state attorney general in less than a month, it would probably be resubmitted.

If cleared by Ruthledge the next time, the measure will need to obtain a total of 84,959 signatures. If such a campaign is successful and the pro-casino group manages to get the signatures required, they will be able to put the referendum on the November ballot. It is, then, up to voters to decide whether Arkansas will have full-fledged commercial casino gambling or not.

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