After a slew of rejections, Arkansas could finally get its own casinos
She wielded the "rejected" stamp as if it were an appendage to her right hand, denying more 60 ballot initiatives that tried to legalize casinos in the state. Now, Arkansas Attorney General (AG) Leslie Rutledge has had a change of heart, and finally approved a measure that paves the way for casino construction in the state. Her opinion was changed by a simple gesture – the threat of a lawsuit.
Rutledge has turned down a total of 69 casino proposals in her tenure as the state’s AG, four of which came already in 2018. However, a lawsuit filed by the pro-casino group Driving Arkansas Forward (DAF) following her latest denial in April was the catalyst for the reversal of opinion. DAF claimed in the suit that the group had properly addressed all of her reasons for past rejections and that the AG was simply applying an “unnecessarily burdensome standard” in her opinions.
AG Rutledge backed her previous decisions, stating that the Arkansas Supreme Court was to blame. However, she was pushing forward with the changes to appease the community. "In light of the Arkansas Supreme Court’s failure to put forth clear standards, I am certifying these proposals in an exercise of caution to ensure Arkansans are given an opportunity to put these measures on the ballot,” she explained in a statement.
The move does not mean that casinos will definitely come to the state. It does, however, open the doors to a discussion by legislators. For that to happen, DAF is scrambling to acquire the requisite number of signatures – 84,859 – for its casino proposal prior to the deadline of July 6. If accepted, the proposal could see casinos being built in Jefferson and Pope Counties, as well as at the two racetracks in the state.