In Arkansas, the Secretary of State’s office announced last week that Driving Arkansas Forward, a non-profit pro-casino lobby group, had exceeded the 84,859 signatures needed from registered voters to qualify a proposal to legalize casino gambling for the coming November 6 general election ballot.

According to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Director of elections in the secretary of state’s office, Leslie Bellamy, said the sponsors of the measure submitted 99,988 valid signatures of registered voters.

The proposal, which Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson opposes, would allow casino licenses to be issued by the state Racing Commission to:

  • An applicant in Jefferson County within 2 miles of Pine Bluff
  • An applicant in Pope County within 2 miles of Russellville
  • Southland Racing Corp. at or adjacent to Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis
  • Oaklawn Jockey Club at or adjacent to Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs

In July, a 30-day extension was granted to the citizen’s group behind the ballot initiative, after Secretary of State, Mark Martin’s, office, determined that only 70,054 of the more than 96,000 signatures collected were valid signatures.

Largely driven by the Downstream Development Authority of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, which operates the Downstream Casino Resort and the Quapaw Casino on its land in Oklahoma, and the Cherokee Nation Businesses LLC, between the two they have provided the lion’s share of the $2.3 million raised by Driving Arkansas Forward to bankroll the measure that will be Issue 4 on the November ballot, according to the news agency.

Counsel for the Arkansas Jobs Coalition and the Driving Arkansas Forward committees that are pushing the proposal, Nate Steel reportedly said in a written statement…

“This amendment is the state’s best opportunity to create a transparent and equitable gaming structure free from all the pitfalls and drawbacks of casino measures in the past.

“History tells us that we’ll keep seeing legally defective proposals from out-of-state special interests over and over again unless we act now to establish a fair model to provide entertainment opportunities in four distinct regions of Arkansas and create additional revenue to pay for our most important needs.”

Meanwhile, at a news conference at the state Capitol, Governor Hutchinson reportedly said, “Let me emphasize that on these amendments, I have to vote just like everybody else, but it’s ultimately up to the people to decide ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ on those.

“I will vote ‘no’ on the casino amendment because I have always opposed the expansion of casino gambling in Arkansas,” said the Republican governor. “I will make that position clear today. Others will have to wait for a time.”