Opponents sue to block Ark. casino proposal

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – A campaign funded by a Hot Springs horse track asked the Arkansas Supreme Court on Tuesday to block a proposed ballot measure that would give a professional poker player the exclusive right to operate casinos in the state.

The Arkansas Racing Alliance asked justices to reject the proposed constitutional amendment by Nancy Todd, claiming there are problems with the signatures she submitted and the language of her ballot measure. The lawsuit was filed as justices are considering Todd’s lawsuit against the state seeking to keep her measure on the November ballot.

All $80,000 of contributions to the alliance, which was formed to campaign against both casino legalization proposals, have come from the Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs. Oaklawn and Southland, a West Memphis dog track, both offer electronic gambling such as video poker and have been campaigning against the casino measures.

Election officials rejected the wording of Todd’s measure, saying the proposal doesn’t tell voters it would repeal the current law allowing the tracks to offer the so-called electronic games of skill. Justices are considering Todd’s lawsuit challenging that decision.

Todd’s proposal has been tentatively certified to appear on the ballot while the court considers her lawsuit. A spokesman for the secretary of state’s office said it’s too late to remove the proposal from the ballot, but the court can rule that no votes be counted for it.

Todd did not immediately return a call late Tuesday afternoon. A spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin, the defendant in the lawsuit filed Tuesday, said Martin’s office would review the lawsuit and respond in court.

The alliance’s lawsuit also cites the impact the amendment would have on the electronic gambling at the tracks, and says it does not clearly define casino gambling.

“The definition is broadly worded and clearly includes activities that the voters do not normally associate with casino-style games,” the lawsuit said.

Todd has argued that she responded to concerns raised by the state over the impact the amendment would have on the tracks’ gambling by revising it to say the proposal “may” affect the games.

Attorneys for the state and opponents of the proposal say the wording is still unclear.

Elizabeth Robben Murray, an attorney for the alliance, said the lawsuit is broader than the case currently before the court, as it also raises questions about the signatures Todd submitted. The alliance asked the court to appoint a special master to review problems it cites with the signatures Todd submitted for her proposal. It also asked justices to hold oral arguments on the lawsuit.

The state last week said that Todd had submitted more than the 78,133 signatures from registered voters required to qualify for the ballot.

The lawsuit marks the third case before the state’s highest court over casino legalization. Justices are also considering Texas businessman Michael Wasserman’s lawsuit seeking more time to gather signatures for his proposal. Election officials said Wasserman missed a key signature requirement and was not entitled to more time to circulate petitions.

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

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