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Suit filed in Ark. over casino petition rejection

A Texas businessman seeking a constitutional amendment that would grant him the exclusive right to build casinos in Arkansas sued election officials on Friday for rejecting his attempt to place the issue on the state's November ballot.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A Texas businessman seeking a constitutional amendment that would grant him the exclusive right to build casinos in Arkansas sued election officials on Friday for rejecting his attempt to place the issue on the state's November ballot.

Michael Wasserman asked the Arkansas Supreme Court on Friday to order the secretary of state to give him additional time to gather signatures supporting his casino-legalization proposal. Secretary of State Mark Martin's office said last month that Wasserman had fallen short of the number of signatures required to put the issue before voters in November during an initial count.

Proposed constitutional amendments need at least 78,133 signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot.

But Wasserman didn't meet an additional requirement that signatures from at least 15 counties equal at least 5 percent of the votes cast in the last governor's election - he fell short in Prairie, Saline and Woodruff counties. Wasserman's lawsuit said that the 15-county rule should not apply since he turned in more than the minimum number of signatures.

"What the secretary of state has done that has precipitated this action is to thwart the rule of the people," Wasserman's lawsuit said. "He has interposed himself and his office between the petitioner and the petitioner's right to have the decision concerning the matters concerned in the petition made by the people of Arkansas."

A spokesman for Martin's office did not have an immediate comment on the lawsuit. Martin's office had rejected Wasserman's request for more time.

Wasserman's proposal would have given him exclusive rights to operate casinos in seven Arkansas counties. His was one of two competing casino proposals vying for spots on the November ballot.

Professional poker player Nancy Todd has proposed an amendment that would give her exclusive rights to operate casinos in four Arkansas counties. Election officials last week gave her 30 days to gather additional signatures after she fell short of signatures from registered voters. Todd was given the additional time since she had cleared an initial count and the 15-county requirement.

Had both measures made the ballot and been approved by voters, only the one that received the most votes would have been enacted since the proposals were conflicting measures. Both face strong opposition from anti-gambling groups, as well as a West Memphis dog track and a Hot Springs horse track that also offer electronic gambling such as video poker.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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