|Updated: 7/16/2012 7:46 pm
||Published: 7/16/2012 1:20 pm
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A proposal to allow casinos in four Arkansas counties should be blocked from the ballot because it would give a private business a monopoly without any regulation from the state Legislature, a group opposed to the measure told election officials Monday.
The Stop Casinos Now Committee asked the secretary of state's office to declare the proposed constitutional amendment by professional poker player Nancy Todd legally insufficient. Election officials are going through Todd's petitions to determine whether she's turned in at least 78,133 signatures from registered voters to qualify her proposal for the November ballot.
Todd's proposal would give her exclusive rights to operate casinos in Crittenden, Franklin, Miller and Pulaski counties. The anti-casino committee said her proposal doesn't adequately inform voters that it would repeal the state's ban on monopolies.
"This provision of the Arkansas Constitution has been in place for the entire 177 years of our existence as a state and its repeal for the benefit of Nancy Todd's monopoly would certainly give voters serious ground for reflection," the group said in its challenge.
The committee is a coalition of law enforcement, elected officials and community leaders opposed to the proposed amendment. It's bankrolled by the company that owns Southland Gaming and Racing, the West Memphis dog track that also offers electronic games such as video poker.
Todd said she had not seen the complaint, but denied that her proposal would create a monopoly. She noted that anyone could later repeal her proposal by a similar vote of the people if her amendment is enacted.
"Everything we're doing can clearly be undone. That's not very monopolistic," Todd said.
Secretary of State Mark Martin has 30 days to consult with the attorney general's office and decide whether the proposed amendment is sufficient.
Monday's filing is the second challenge Todd's proposal faces. Election officials have asked Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office for an opinion on a separate challenge that questions the legality of the way tax money would be distributed under Todd's proposal.
Todd responded to that challenge on June 29, saying the Legislature could implement laws to distribute the tax revenue from the casino games.
The challenge was filed June 21 by Elizabeth Williams of Little Rock, who worked as a signature gatherer for a competing casino proposal by Texas businessman Michael Wasserman. Election officials last week said Wasserman did not meet the signature requirement and his proposal would not qualify for the ballot.
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Statement from Nancy Todd
LITTLE ROCK …..In a statement issued today Nancy Todd of Nancy Todd's Poker Palace who states she fully expected the legal challenge filed today by Stop Casinos Now, which is the group being funded by the tracks.
“This group brings special interest to a whole new level. Their only goal seems to be to make sure the people of Arkansas do not have a right to vote on this important issue. The citizens didn't get to vote on the tracks, their expansion, their taxes, their influence or any decisions they have made which have greatly impacted the people of Arkansas.”
Todd went on to state “I find it ironic we only get a challenge when we get our signatures approved for submission in the Secretary of State's office. If there were such big issues with our Amendment one would think they would have been brought out when we first filed.”
“As to the monopoly issue”, Todd stated, “It's very difficult to claim a monopoly when anyone in the country can come into the state the next election cycle and try to un-do what we pass in this year. If that was our main focus, I would have put language in the Amendment which precludes that from happening.”
Todd closed by saying “We haven't had a chance to see the challenge and to see if there are any issues which need to be addressed. When we do I am sure we will comment on it.”