LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Forty state legislators oppose a plan to legalize casinos in three Arkansas counties, a group hoping to block votes on the measure announced Monday.
The Committee to Protect Arkansas’ Values/Stop Casinos Now released the list of lawmakers opposing the proposed constitutional amendment to allow three companies owned by supporters of the amendment to open casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties. The committee’s supporters also include horse and dog tracks that currently offer electronic gambling such as video poker.
Democratic Rep. Greg Leding said he objected to writing a private business into the state’s constitution and said he was worried about one of the casinos being located near the University of Arkansas campus in Washington County.
“The idea that we would allow a 24-hour casino with 24-hour alcohol sales to be built on the back steps of our state’s flagship university I think is just a very bad idea,” Leding said at a news conference at the state Capitol.
The committee last week asked the state Supreme Court to block election officials from counting any votes for the casinos measure, claiming the proposal is misleading and that supporters didn’t follow the law for petition canvassers. Arkansas Wins in 2016, the group behind the proposal, on Monday asked the court to reject the lawsuit.
Robert Coon, a spokesman for Arkansas Wins, called the committee’s criticism of the measure hypocritical since its supporters include Oaklawn Jockey Club and Southland Park Gaming and Racing. Both tracks offer electronic “games of skill.”
“I think members of the Legislature that are opposed to this, they will be excited when Issue 5 passes,” Coon told reporters. “We expect it will raise more money and tax dollars for the state of Arkansas than the existing facilities in West Memphis and Hot Springs.”
Also Monday, retired Circuit Judge Bentley Story recused himself from serving as a “special master” appointed by the Supreme Court to review problems opponents cited with the casino petitions after learning his daughter-in-law’s consulting firm does work for Oaklawn. The court had not named a replacement for Story late Monday afternoon.
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