The battle in the state of Arkansas regarding a referendum on its November ballot has reached a critical point, with state election officials rejecting its inclusion on this fall’s slate and the proponent of the proposal continuing the fight through the legal system.
According to an article written by Andrew DeMillo and picked up by CNBC.com, the office of Arkansas’ Secretary of State Mark Martin has rejected the ballot measure due to certain language contained in the referendum. After consulting with Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who stated it was unclear what impact the new casinos would have on the currently legal electronic gambling of dog tracks, Secretary Martin’s office felt it was enough to rule that the entire proposed amendment would be rejected and not be included on the November slate.
The leader of the fight to bring poker to the Natural State, poker player and political consultant Nancy Todd, is undaunted by this latest roadblock to her drive. “We knew in January it was going to come down to the (state) Supreme Court, so that’s where we’ll head,” Todd stated in the DeMillo article. “The people should be deciding this issue. It shouldn’t be tied up in any kind of political quagmire. The people should have a right to vote on this issue.”
Earlier this year, Todd introduced a petition movement that would put the measure on this November’s ballot in Arkansas to create four poker locations throughout the state in the counties of Pulaski, Miller, Franklin and Crittenden. Faced with the task of getting 73,000 signatures on that petition, Todd was able to turn in 80,373 signed petitions by the time the filing period ended. After review of the petitions by the Board of Elections in late July, however, only 23,616 of those signatures were verified.
The Board of Elections gave Todd another month to reach the 73,000 goal and Todd has once again blasted past the goal. By the time the one month extension expired yesterday, Todd had submitted a total of 121,503 signatures to the Board. Currently there are plans to review the signatures even though they have rejected the ballot measure.
The reason for that is Todd’s threat to head to the court system. Under the laws of Arkansas, if Todd is able to file her lawsuit by today, election officials are required to certify the ballot proposal and keep it on the slate while the case weaves its way through the legal system. This is what has occurred with another proposed casino bill introduced by a Texas businessman, although there are questions as to whether he has met the requirements of the petition process.
It also seems that Todd’s proposal has sparked the ire of the only locations in Arkansas that can legally offer gambling, albeit electronic. DeMillo points out in his article that Southland Park Gaming and Racing, a dog track in West Memphis, AR, has contributed over $727,000 to defeat Todd’s proposed poker rooms. According to DeMillo, the company feels that, if passed, Todd’s new poker outlets would take away from their action.
Both Southland Park and Oaklawn Gaming and Racing, located in Hot Springs, have electronic poker tables in their locations. These poker tables, built by PokerTek, have been popular in some areas – especially cruise ships – because they have no need for “live” dealers or chips. The PokerPro tables operate across the United States in eight other locations, five in Canada, on over 60 cruise ships and in 18 nations around the globe.
If Todd is able to get her case before the Arkansas Supreme Court today, that doesn’t mean the ballot measure will go before the citizens of the state. Secretary Martin’s office says that it still could be removed from the November agenda, depending on how quickly the courts act and, if it does appear on any ballots after a court decision, the votes will not be counted.
Poker News Daily will continue to follow this story and report as news breaks.