Arkansas casino supporters get 30-day extension for petition signatures

In Arkansas, a 30-day extension has been granted to a nonprofit organization pushing a constitutional ballot referendum that would authorize the state to license four casinos.

According to a recent Associated Press report published in The Meridian Star…

Driving Arkansas Forward, the citizen’s group behind the ballot initiative, fell short of the 84,859 signatures needed from registered voters to qualify a proposal to legalize casino gambling for the coming November 6 general election ballot.

Invalidated signatures:

The group was reportedly given the news by Secretary of State, Mark Martin’s, office, after determining that only 70,054 of the more than 96,000 signatures collected were valid signatures.

According to Arkansas state law, ballot questions must a 7BALL ttain signatures equal to 10 percent of the total votes received in the most recent gubernatorial election. The number of residential votes cast for the 2018 election is equal to 84,859 resident signatures.

Some 26,000 signatures submitted by the group were reportedly invalidated by Martin’s office. The group, however, qualified for a 30-day extension, which the Secretary of State granted.

If the required 14,805 signatures are obtained by Driving Arkansas Forward, and in November the ballot question receives a simple majority support, casinos in Pope and Jefferson counties would be legalized. Casino gambling would also be legalized at Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis and Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs.

Casino group remains confident:

Driving Arkansas Forward is reportedly confident that it will gather the needed signatures during the 30-day extension period.

Having rejected six different casino gambling proposals within the last two years and being sued in April 2018 by the Committee to Restore Arkansans’ Rights, on May 24 this year, the committee and its attorney decided to drop its lawsuit against Arkansas Attorney general Leslie Rutledge after her office approved wording for the four ballot measures. One of the four was the casino proposal created by Driving Arkansas Forward.

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AG Rutledge said at the time…

“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.”

Tribal investment:

In January this year, the Quapaw Tribe, which operates the Downstream Casino Resort and the Quapaw Casino on its land in Oklahoma, partnered with Driving Arkansas Forward to bring gaming to what is its ancestral homeland.

In 2014, the Quapaw Tribe purchased two parcels of ancestral land totaling 160 acres near the Little Rock Port Authority’s industrial park for $1.37 million. The tribe once had a reservation in Arkansas and pledges not to seek gaming there. Later that year, a land-into-trust application for an ancestral property was submitted to the Bureau of Affairs (BIA). The BIA has been reviewing the Quapaw Tribe’s application since 2015.

According to a July 19 report from The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette…

The Cherokee Nation and Quapaw Tribe collectively contributed $1.2 million in June to the Driving Arkansas Forward committee to aid in promoting the proposed constitutional amendment.