LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A lawsuit filed Tuesday with the Arkansas Supreme Court asks the justices to block an effort to legalize casinos in three counties, the latest in a growing list of attempts to disqualify measures from the November ballot.
The Committee to Protect Arkansas’ Values/Stop Casinos Now asked justices to prevent state officials from counting any votes for the proposed constitutional amendment. The proposal would allow three companies owned by supporters of the amendment to open casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties.
The lawsuit claims the ballot title’s language is misleading to voters and doesn’t inform them of the consequences of the measure. It also claims the group behind the measure didn’t follow state law for reporting paid canvassers.
“There are too many flaws in the way the signatures were gathered and too much uncertainty about how it affects our state’s ability to manage what kind of gaming we want in Arkansas,” Chuck Lange, the chairman of the group suing to block the measure, said in a statement. “This amendment is not worthy to be included in our constitution and we believe it needs to be struck from the ballot.”
A spokesman for Arkansas Wins in 2016, the group behind the ballot measure, said he was confident the proposal would survive the court challenge.
“This is just an attempt by a group that has previously received millions of dollars from the gaming monopoly in Arkansas to restrict competition,” Robert Coon said.
The group challenging the measure hasn’t filed a fundraising report yet and its spokesman declined to say whether its supporters include a Hot Springs horse track or West Memphis dog tracks. The tracks both offer electronic gambling such as video poker and opposed similar casino measures four years ago.
The challenge was filed days after the pro-casino group began airing television ads statewide touting the measure as a way to boost tourism and economic development in Arkansas.
The lawsuit means justices have a full docket of ballot measure challenges before the November election. The court is also considering challenges to a pair of medical marijuana proposals and an initiative to limit damages awarded in medical lawsuits.
Among other arguments, the lawsuit claims the ballot title leads voters to believe it would allow betting on sports events at the casinos even though that’s barred by federal law. It also says voters aren’t adequately informed that the three companies can transfer their licenses for the casinos.
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