AG Rutledge shoots down ‘casinos for highways’ amendment a second time

by Talk Business & Politics staff ( 390 views 

Supporters of a proposal to amend the Arkansas Constitution to allow up to four casinos in Arkansas with tax proceeds benefitting highway funding drew another unlucky response from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

On Monday, Rutledge denied Drive Arkansas Forward’s second attempt to qualify a ballot issue for this November’s general election. Their most recent proposal, the Arkansas Casino Gaming Amendment of 2018, was filed Monday (Feb. 26). It would authorize two new casinos – one in Jefferson County and one in Pope County – while enhancing the gaming operations at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis.

The bulk of tax revenues from casino gaming under the proposed constitutional amendment would go for highway needs statewide, as well as in the counties and cities where the casinos are located. Total annual tax revenue estimates exceed $100 million.

Rutledge said she was rejecting the ballot title because the popular name was too long and she said it had “misleading tendencies in the title” and “ambiguities in the text of the measure.”

She had previously rejected the language of the initial amendment citing the definitions of “casino” and “casino gaming,” whether the measure is a true “highway funding” proposal, and a reference to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Under Arkansas law, the attorney general must certify or reject the popular name and ballot title of a proposed constitutional amendment within 10 business days. If approved, a measure’s supporters can immediately start collecting signatures to ensure the measure is placed on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Rutledge rejected another constitutional amendment proposal on Friday (March 9). It sought to clarify sovereign immunity rules in Arkansas.