Casinos a No-Go for Arkansas Ballot

by Jim Hall

Arkansas Supreme Court decides to pull Issue 5 from November ballot, leaving the state without the option to vote for casino gaming.

In the state of Arkansas, a heated debate has been taking place over the past few months. Casino gaming is the hot topic being discussed with those who are for casinos coming to the state and those who are against. Issue 5 was a constitutional amendment that was going to be up for vote this November to see casinos added in three counties of the state but has now been removed. It was announced late this week that the Arkansas Supreme Court has pulled Issue 5 from the ballot and no voting on the matter will take place.

What’s Going On?

If Issue 5 had been voted on and passed, an amendment would have been made within the state constitution to allow gaming venues to be created in the state. Of the three counties to offer gaming, Washington County was to be included. Court documents revealed that the Supreme Court decided that the title of the ballot did not sufficiently represent the amendment for voters. The ballot title tells voters the amendment would allow sports gambling but does not state that the amendment is in violation of the federal law. The Supreme Court decided that the wording does not reflect the proposal of the amendment accurately.

Many were glad to see the issue removed from the ballot as they feel that casino gaming has no place in the state. While the decision by the Supreme Court will stand, it is surely not going to be the end of the fight for casino gaming in Arkansas.

Greg LedingOpponents of Issue 5 brought the matter to the attention of the Supreme Court with the argument that the ballot title was legally insufficient and was in violation of federal law as well as the United States Constitution.

State Representative Greg Leding stated that he is not opposed to casinos in the state but could not be in agreement with the space being carved out in the constitution for out of state interests. Leding stated that he recommends supporters of the measure sit down and talk to people who have concerns about the approach and see if there is not room for some type of compromise, another way to go about offering the gaming option.

Trying Again

A group in favor of the amendment is Arkansas Wins in 2016. This group has five days to be able to call for a rehearing to see the subject discussed again. The group released a statement which read:

Arkansas Wins in 2016 Statement

The Attorney General of the state also has an opinion on the matter. Leslie Rutledge was the one who certified the ballot title before signatures could be gathered to see the measure placed on the actual ballot. The office of the AG is in disagreement with the court and released a statement on the matter.

Rutledge’s office said that the attorney general takes her responsibility very seriously to certify or reject ballot titles and she believes that both of these measures met the standard of being impartial, honest and not misleading towards voters.

We shall see in the coming days is a rehearing takes place and if perhaps language will be changed to allow the measure on the bill or if it will not be voted on this year.