Leslie Rutledge, the Attorney General for Arkansas, rejected a proposal to take the issue of casino gambling to the ballots in November this year, saying that the popular name of the casino proposal by Barry Emigh of Hot Springs is misleading and “confusing to the point of being nonsensical.”
According to AG Rutledge, the proposal to allow casino gambling in Arkansas provided very few details, such as who would make up the committee tasked to provide licenses to potential casino operators, and how the said committee would even be created.
Last year, a group in favor of the referendum to allow Arkansans to vote on the future of casino gambling in the state, managed to gain approval for the question to be placed on the 2016 ballots. However, they were quickly disappointed when the State Supreme Court ruled that the question had to be removed from the referendum as it did not provide enough information to voters. The group, Arkansas Wins in 2016, appealed to the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling but was unsuccessful.
The high court said that the ballot title did not inform locals voters that the measure would violate a federal law prohibiting sports gambling in the state, aka PASPA.
“The voters are entitled to a ballot title that is honest, impartial and intelligible and will give them a fair understanding of the issues presented,” the court wrote in its opinion.
Arkansas Wins 2016 describes itself as “a ballot committee that is advocating for qualification and passage of Issue 5, an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution that would authorize the operation and regulation of up to three new casinos in the State of Arkansas – in Boone County, Miller County, and Washington County.”
In early 2016, Arkansas Wins 2016 struck a deal with Cherokee Nation Entertainment that if state voters approved the introduction of casinos, the group would be allowed to run the Washington County casino. As a result, the Cherokee Nation donated more than $1.4 million to the casino campaign.
Robert Coon, speaking after the Supreme Court ruling, said at the time: “It’s a shame that the voters of Arkansas, including the more than 100,000 that signed our petitions, are being denied the opportunity to vote on an amendment that would create thousands of jobs and more than $120 million in new tax revenue for the state and local communities.”