One of two Arkansas casino proposals deemed ‘invalid’

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 343 views 

One of the two ballot initiatives seeking casino gaming in Arkansas is in trouble.

Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin on Wednesday (July 11) notified Texas businessman Michael Wasserman that his petition for a proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution is invalid because it lacked the necessary signatures when submitted by the July 6 deadline.

Wasserman’s business, known as Arkansas Hotels and Entertainment Inc., sought the amendment to allow for casinos in Boone, Crittenden, Garland, Jefferson, Miller, Pulaski and Sebastian counties.

“The sponsor submitted an insufficient number of signatures, from fifteen separate counties, prior to the deadline,” Martin noted in the press release.

Arkansas law not only requires the signatures of at least 10% of legal voters to submit an amendment, but that at least 5% of valid voters in 15 counties also be submitted. The Wasserman proposal did not have enough valid voters in 15 counties.

“The Elections Division has notified the sponsor of the facial invalidity of its submission because the sponsor did not have at least fifteen separate counties where at least five percent (5%) of the qualified electors of each separate county signed the petition, as submitted to the Elections Division at the deadline,” explained Martin’s statement. “In an excess of caution, the Elections Division granted the sponsor seven (7) days to review the petitions for accuracy of the count by the Elections Division. If the count is accurate, the Secretary of State would be prohibited from accepting any additional signatures, under applicable Arkansas Supreme Court case law.”

The other casino plan is pushed by Nancy Todd of Las Vegas. Todd seeks an amendment to Arkansas’ Constitution that would allow her business, Poker Palace and Entertainment Venues, to own and operate casinos in Crittenden, Franklin, Miller and Pulaski counties.

Martin’s office is also reviewing an amendment submitted by Sheffield Nelson to raise Arkansas’ severance tax to 7%, and an amendment that would legalize medical marijuana through 30 nonprofit pharmacies.

Two proposed constitutional changes, approved by the Arkansas Legislature in the 2011 regular session, will be on the November ballot.

One amendment seeks a temporary half-cent state sales tax to fund a bond program for highway construction and repairs. The tax would be retired after the bonds were paid.

A second legislative proposal would allow local governments to create development or redevelopment district as well as have permissive authority to issue bonds paid for by city and county sales taxes.