Arkansas court rejects Todd's proposed casino ballot measure

Oct 8, 2012 10:08 AM

The Arkansas Supreme Court rejected a proposed ballot measure that would have given a professional poker player the exclusive rights to operate casinos in four of the state’s counties.

Nancy Todd’s proposed constitutional amendment seeking exclusive rights to run casinos in Pulaski, Miller, Franklin and Crittenden counties will appear on the November ballot, but the court ruled that any votes cast for or against it will not count.

Election officials rejected the proposed ballot measure after determining that it didn’t tell voters it would prohibit electronic gambling at a horse track in Hot Springs and a dog track in West Memphis. Todd had revised the language of her proposal to say it may repeal the law that allows the electronic gambling. 

The high court ruled in favor of Arkansas Racing Alliance, a campaign funded by Oaklawn Jockey Club, which challenged the wording of Todd’s proposal and the validity of the petition signatures she submitted to get it on the ballot.

The court ruled Thursday that the signatures were invalid because she revised her proposal’s wording after gathering them.

“While we sympathize with (Todd’s) view that the revision was ostensibly made as part of a collaboration with respondent and the attorney general, the fact remains that (Todd) altered the text of their ballot measure even though all of their signatures were gathered under a different ballot title,” the court said.

Todd sued after the state invalidated her proposed ballot measure, and the court dismissed the lawsuit Thursday, finding it moot.

An attorney for Todd told the court last month that the state had turned the initiative process into an “obstacle course” by rejecting the language of her proposal. The state has argued that Todd’s revised amendment language that says it “may” repeal the games would confuse voters even more. 

Last month, the justices ended a Texas businessman’s competing bid to get a casino rights question on the ballot, rejecting his request for more time to gather the requisite petition signatures. Michael Wasserman’s proposal would have given him the exclusive rights to operate casinos in seven Arkansas counties.

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