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Casino votes no longer count

Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 11:10

Arkansas votes will not won’t be counted for or against on a proposed ballot measure that would have allowed casino gambling in the state under exclusive ownership by two entities.

Issue 4 would have allowed 24-hour casinos in seven state counties: Sebastian, Pulaski, Garland, Miller, Crittenden, Boone and Jefferson.

Texas businessman Michael Wasserman, who owns Arkansas Hotels and Entertainment Inc., has proposed the idea several times to the Attorney General’s office in the past, with four rejected ballot title requests and three approved titles.

Issue 3 on the ballot was proposed by professional Las Vegas poker player Nancy Todd to allow four casinos from her company, Nancy Todd’s Poker Palace, in the state. Todd said her proposal would bring in 6,000 jobs, keep $500 million within the state and increase tax revenue.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel approved of the petition for circulation Nov. 16, 2011. Both issues were added to the November ballot when Todd and Wasserman submitted the required 78,133 signatures from Arkansas registered voters by the deadline in early July.  
After a closer look, it was determined Wasserman didn’t collect enough within the time allotted and was allowed seven days to challenge the ruling. When he filed a bid saying he needed an extra 30 days, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the bid.

“I think it’s scary,” Wasserman told the Memphis Daily News. “This gives the secretary of state a tremendous amount of power that is not supposed to be in that office.”

Where Todd’s proposal fell through was when the Supreme Court reviewed the amendment for approval. The court said it didn’t like the wording of the amendment, which had been changed after the voters had already signed the measure certified by Secretary of State Mark Martin.

According to a report by THV in September, Martin’s office argued that “Todd’s proposal leaves too much uncertainty over whether the proposal would prohibit electronic gambling” at Oaklawn, a Hot Springs horse track and at Southland Park, a West Memphis dog track.

Wasserman said he was disappointed, but he would likely try to get his proposal on the 2014 ballot.

Todd issued a statement earlier this month, stating how “a track full of moneyed insiders fought me every inch of the way and while they may have ‘won’ today, it’s the people of Arkansas who have lost in the long run.”


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