A professional poker player seeking exclusive rights to operate casinos in Arkansas sparred Tuesday with state election officials who say the reach of Nancy Todd’s proposal is unclear and want it removed from the November ballot.
Nancy Todd asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to keep her proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot and said election officials are unfairly trying to block the proposal because of concerns it would ban video poker, blackjack and other electronic gambling currently offered at a Hot Springs horse track and a West Memphis dog track. Election officials argue that Todd hasn’t made it clear that her proposal would prohibit the games at those locations.
Todd’s proposal would give her exclusive rights to operate casinos in four Arkansas counties.
Todd said state officials are trying to predict the future by arguing that her proposal would implicitly repeal a state law that allowed the tracks to offer the so-called electronic games of skill. The revised language for her measure acknowledges the proposal “may” prohibit the games.
“No one knows at this moment whether the measure will become law or whether it might repeal by implication any part of the (electronic games of skill) Act. One of the political arguments common in debates on initiated measures is that voting for a measure will open a Pandora’s Box of undesirable consequences,” Todd’s attorney argued in the brief. “This court does not require that ballot titles try to predict and disclose the future.”
Tuesday was the deadline for both sides to file briefs in Todd’s lawsuit challenging the state’s rejection of her measure’s language.
Asa Hutchinson, an attorney representing Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office, said Todd’s proposal is still confusing to voters on whether it would ban the games. Hutchinson argued that if the court finds the language valid, Todd should be required to submit new signatures.
“A voter cannot make an informed decision as to the impact of his or her vote when the clear language of the ballot title leaves so much room for doubt as to how the Amendment will impact existing law,” Hutchinson wrote in a brief filed with the court.
State election officials have asked the court to either remove the measure from the ballot or order that not votes be counted for the proposal if it’s too late to remove it. It’s unclear how quickly the court will rule on the lawsuit. Todd’s attorneys have asked for oral arguments.
Justices on Thursday are scheduled to hear oral arguments Thursday in a competing casino legalization proposal.