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Group asks Arkansas court to strike casinos ballot measure

By The Associated Press
This article was published September 11, 2018 at 9:27 a.m.

LITTLE ROCK (AP) — A group asked Arkansas' highest court on Monday to disqualify a ballot measure that would legalize four casinos in the state, claiming the proposal's wording is ambiguous and misleading to voters.

The group, Ensuring Arkansas' Future, asked the state Supreme Court to not cast any votes on the proposed constitutional amendment that election officials approved last week for the November ballot. Ensuring Arkansas' Future was formed by a coalition of groups and people, including the Family Council Action Committee and the Faith and Ethics Council, to campaign against the pro-casino measure.

The proposed amendment would allow casinos at a Hot Springs horse track and a West Memphis dog track that already offer video poker and other electronic gambling. It would also allow casinos in Pope and Jefferson counties.

The lawsuit cites several areas where it says the proposal is unclear or misleading to voters. For example, it says the ballot title doesn't reveal that the tracks could transfer their casino licenses to any party that has casino experience.

Driving Arkansas Forward, the group campaigning for the pro-casino measure, has raised more than $2.2 million. Nearly all of the money raised has come from the Quapaw and Cherokee tribes in neighboring Oklahoma. The group called the lawsuit an effort to circumvent the initiative process and the voters who signed petitions to get the measure on the ballot.

"We believe the attorney general was diligent and correct in reviewing this ballot title, and we have no doubt that it will withstand this legal challenge," Nate Steel, the group's counsel, said in a statement.

The lawsuit is among several pending before the state's high court over ballot measures. Justices are also considering challenges to ballot measures that would raise the state's minimum wage, impose stricter term limits on Arkansas legislators and cap damages awarded in civil lawsuits.

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