Leslie Rutledge (pictured), Arkansas Attorney General (AG), who is notorious for turning down more than 60 initiatives for building casinos in this state, finally gave in – it was announced last week, that she approved four ballot measures, one of them for building a casino in Russellville. The group who put the ballot forward, Driving Arkansas Forward, claims that 65% of the casino tax revenue will be invested in improving transportation infrastructure. Now the group looks forward to gathering the necessary 84,859 signatures in order to get the proposal on public vote on November 6th. The signatures must be collected by July 6th, so saying that time is of the essence for Driving Arkansas Forward is an understatement.
This April, AG denied another ballot motion which was her fourth rejection this year and following that, the pro-casino group who put the motion forward filed a lawsuit against Ruttledge claiming that she applied, “unnecessarily burdensome standards in her reviews.” On May 23rd, the State Supreme Court urged AG to certify the initiated act to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas to $12 in the next four years. AG claims that the State Court provided a lack of clarifications on the ballots she rejected before.
Ruttledge comments: “I have issued opinions on ballot proposals based on standards set forth in statutes as well as case law of the Arkansas Supreme Court. However, the Arkansas Supreme Court has once again muddied the waters on these standards by offering no insight in its decision requiring me to certify or substitute language of a ballot title that I had previously rejected.”
“To be clear, today’s certifications do not prevent a citizen from legally challenging a ballot proposal once the required number of signatures are submitted to the Arkansas Secretary of State. Therefore, it is a real possibility that any one or all of the certified proposals will not appear on the ballot in November,” she added.
Those who approve the casino construction in the state say that residents are still gambling anyway, giving away their money in the neighboring states of Missouri, Oklahoma, Mississippi, which is why Arkansas is losing millions of dollars.
Arkansas is one of eleven US states that doesn’t have a commercial or tribal casino in its territory. We will see if there will be only ten states left after November 6th.