A group supporting a proposed amendment to Arkansas’s constitution to legalize casinos in three counties was granted a 30-day extension to gather the additional signatures necessary to get the measure on the November ballot, according to a press release on Wednesday.
Interests from the construction, economic, and financial sectors are backing the efforts of Arkansas Wins in 2016 to get the amendment passed that would allow casinos in Washington, Boone, and Miller counties. The group submitted the signatures to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office for verification by the due date on July 8, according to local media. At that time it was determined that despite falling short of the 84,859 signatures required to get the measure on the November ballot, enough valid signatures had been gathered by the group to reach the 75-percent required to receive the extension. As a result, Arkansas Wins in 2016 has 30 more days to collect additional signatures courtesy of Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office, which approved the extension.
Robert Coon with Impact Management, a local PR firm hired by the group to aid the effort, said, “Our campaign has covered significant ground in a short period of time because voters across the state understand the positive impact this proposal will have in the form of jobs, economic growth, tourism, and tax revenue,” according to the release. Coon said that the group is confident that over the next several weeks it will obtain the signatures needed to get the amendment on the ballot this fall. Last month Coon said that money that should be spent in Arkansas is instead flowing out of the state and into casinos in neighboring states. He said that the group would like the decision of whether to allow the casinos in their state to be made by the voters.
On June 1, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge approved the wording of the proposed measure after rejecting a ballot proposal submitted by Cal McCastlain, an attorney with the Little Rock-based law firm of Dover Dixon Horne, on May 12 stating that it contained ambiguous language and failed to provide a complete summary of the proposed amendment within its title. Included in the proposal is the creation of a governor-appointed five-member state Gaming Commission, which would regulate the casinos and require them to pay the State of Arkansas an 18 percent tax on all gambling proceeds. It also calls for the casinos to be run by three limited liability companies.
While casino gambling is strictly prohibited in Arkansas, the law does allow facilities that have parimutuel wagering on dog and horse races, currently only Southland Park Gaming & Racing in West Memphis and Oaklawn Park Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs, to also offer electronic games of skill. Included are machines for blackjack and video poker and slot machines.
Arkansas Wins now has until Aug. 26 to obtain the additional signatures needed.