Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Lawsuit challenges casino amendment

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 7:17 AM

A group opposing additional casinos in Arkansas asked the state Supreme Court yesterday to disqualify an enabling amendment currently approved for the November ballot.

The group — Committee to Protect Arkansas Values/Stop Casinos Nowsaid the ballot title of a proposed constitutional amendment is defective and it also questions whether the paid petition canvassers met the demanding terms of the Arkansas petition law.

Plaintiffs are Chuck Lange, a former sheriff, and Bill Walmsley, a former senator who's active in thoroughbred horse racing. Both have been active in past efforts to fight casino gambling proposals.

This year's committee hasn't yet disclosed financing, but Southland Gaming in West Memphis and Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs — operators of the only two casinos currently legal in Arkansas — have financed past efforts to oppose expansion of gambling in the state. Lawyers from the Friday Law Firm, whose clients include Oaklawn Park, and Wright, Lindsey and Jennings, which has represented Southland, filed the lawsuit.

Among other arguments, the lawsuit says the amendment delegates Arkansas's sovereign authority to other states by saying the three privately owned casinos authorized by the amendment would be allowed to engage in whatever gambling is legal in seven other states. The proposition also might lead voters to erroneously believe that it would allow bookmaking on sports events. It notes too that the amendment's authorization of sale of alcohol in the casinos could override state law if the casinos were to be located in currently "dry" portions of Boone, Miller and Washington counties, where the casinos would be authorized.

The lawsuit asks for an expedited hearing.

The amendment was proposed by Missouri investors hoping to control the three new casinos. They've said the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, an experienced casino operator, is a partner in the effort because it hopes to run a casino in Washington County.

UPDATE: The group opposing the amendment confirmed in the afternoon the backing of the state's two existing casinos. Their statement:

Troy Keeping - President and General Manager of The Southland Park Gaming and Racing and Eric Jackson - of the Oaklawn Jockey Club offered the following statement:

Oaklawn Jockey Club and Southland Park are opposed to Amendment 5, even though Amendment will not affect business at their two facilities. They stated, “They are opposed for the same reason Governor Hutchinson and others are opposed. It is a terrible and dishonest amendment that will be bad for our State. Arkansas will have no say over who gets the licenses, who operates the licenses or even what kind of gambling they can offer, since the type of gaming is defined by other States in the amendment. This is an open invitation to corruption and unimaginable forms of gambling. Worse, the people who live in communities where casinos will be located are being denied the right to vote on what they want in their own communities. It is not surprising that no state has ever voted for something like this.”

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