Supporters of an amendment that would authorize casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties submitted 92,120 signatures Friday (July 8), while supporters of a medical tort reform amendment submitted 131,000 signatures.
The proposed amendments must submit 84,859 valid signatures by registered voters. The initiatives qualify for the ballot once the secretary of state’s office checks the signatures’ validity one by one against a database.
Initiatives that fall short of the required number then have a 30-day “cure period” to collect more signatures – but only if the number of signatures verified as valid equals 75% of the required 84,859 and meets required thresholds in at least 15 counties.
Robert Coon with Arkansas Wins in 2016, the casino initiative, said supporters would be able to collect the required signatures during the cure period. Coon emphasized that the group had collected the signatures in only about five weeks since the attorney general had certified the ballot name and title.
CASINO PROPOSAL SUMMARY
The measure would embed in the Constitution the entities allowed to operate the casinos: Washington County Gaming, LLC; Miller County Gaming, LLC; and, in Boone County, Arkansas Gaming and Resorts, LLC, or those entities’ successors or assignees.
Casinos would be required to pay the state 18% of their net and pay 1.5% to the city where they are located and .5% to their local counties. The casinos would be subject to laws enacted by the General Assembly and would be governed by regulations enacted by the Arkansas Gaming Commission, which the amendment would create. The commission would be composed of five commissioners appointed by the governor by July 31, 2017, and who would serve five-year terms. Initial regulations would have to be in effect by March 31, 2018.
The measure would allow casino gaming as well as wagers on sporting and other events. The casinos would be allowed to operate at all times and sell alcohol at all times.
Previous efforts to legalize casino gaming have failed. Coon said this time would be different because Arkansans have become more comfortable with gaming. Voters have passed a lottery, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and Southland Gaming and Racing in West Memphis operate casino-like entities, and casinos operate near Arkansas in other states.
“With exposure becomes a little bit of an attitude change,” he said.
Arkansas Wins in 2016 announced last month that Cherokee Nation Entertainment will manage the Washington County facility. It operates nine casino properties in Oklahoma.
TORT REFORM MEASURE
Health Care Access for Arkansans, the tort reform initiative, submitted more than 131,000 signatures for “An Amendment to Limit Attorney Contingency Fees and Non-Economic Damages in Medical Lawsuits.” The group stressed that its work had been accomplished in 60 days.
The amendment would direct the Legislature to set a cap of at least $250,000 for non-economic damages in medical lawsuits and would limit trial lawyer contingency fees at 33 1/3 percent after expenses.