The private group promoting a proposed constitutional amendment that would authorize 16 more casinos in Arkansas on Friday asked the state Supreme Court to dismiss its challenge of Secretary of State John Thurston's refusal to place its proposal on the November 3 general election ballot. The move represents the end of the committee's effort to get the proposal on the ballot.
The casino proposal, if it had been approved by voters, would be in addition to state constitutional Amendment 100, which already authorizes casinos in Crittenden, Garland, Jefferson and Pope counties.
"Arkansas Wins in 2020 has filed a motion for a voluntary nonsuit and will not be taking further legal action," said Taylor Riddle, a spokesman for the Arkansas Wins in 2020 Inc. committee, as reported by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “It is unfortunate that the Secretary of State's office was unwilling to defend the will of the nearly 100,000 Arkansas voters who signed our petition and we believe our argument before the Supreme Court was valid," Riddle said Friday in a written statement.
This development came a week after the high court granted provisional certification of the initiative for inclusion on the ballot, and appointed a retired circuit judge as special master to review disputes raised in the Arkansas Wins in 2020 committee's challenge of the secretary of state's ruling. Retired Circuit Judge Kathleen Bell's report to the state Supreme Court is required to be filed by August 17, the high court said last week.
The state's high court also had directed Thurston to continue reviewing the petitions submitted by the Arkansas Wins in 2020 Inc. committee and to begin verifying signatures of registered voters on the petitions. The court granted the committee a 30-day "cure" period to collect more signatures in case they were needed to qualify the proposal for the ballot.
The high court also decided to allow the Protect Arkansas Communities committee, which opposes the Arkansas Wins proposal, to intervene in the case. That committee is financed by the state's three existing casino operators.
Thurston on July 14 said paid canvassers on three separate initiatives did not pass background checks, including Arkansas Wins. In letters to all three groups, Thurston said the groups’ paid canvassers did not meet the requirement of having “passed” criminal background checks. When supporters turned in petitions, they informed Thurston they had “acquired” background checks. Background checks are required of petition gatherers under Arkansas state law.