AP News

Lawsuit filed over Ark. casino measure rejection


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A professional poker player who wants voters to give her exclusive rights to operate casinos in Arkansas asked the state's highest court Thursday to reverse election officials' rejection of her proposed constitutional amendment.

Nancy Todd asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to order the state to put her proposed amendment on the November ballot. The move came a day after Secretary of State Mark Martin's office rejected the revised wording of her constitutional amendment.

Todd's lawsuit is the second related to casino legalization pending before the court. In her lawsuit, Todd's attorneys said Martin isn't carrying out his duties by not approving the measure.

"The secretary of state's threatened refusal to carry out this legal duty is a violation of his statutory obligations to the petitioners and the people and an abridgement of their rights under Amendment 7," the lawsuit said.

Todd's proposal would give her exclusive rights to operate casinos in four Arkansas counties. Martin's office rejected the revised wording of the proposal hours after she turned in more than 121,000 additional signatures in a bid to get on the ballot.

Martin's office declined to comment on the suit and said it would respond in court. Martin spokesman Alex Reed said the state certified Todd's measure because it was required to under law if a lawsuit was pending on the matter. Thursday was the deadline for the state to certify ballot measures to local election officials.

If Todd loses her suit, officials either will try to remove the proposal from the ballot or not count any votes that are cast for it.

"This was not unexpected and it's now in the court's hands," Reed said.

Todd's lawsuit isn't the only casino legalization measure to go to court. Justices on Sept. 6 will hear arguments over the state's rejection of petitions for Texas businessman Michael Wasserman's proposed casino amendment.

The measure would give him exclusive rights to operate casinos in seven Arkansas counties. His proposal has also been certified for the ballot while justices consider his lawsuit.

A West Memphis dog track that also offers video poker and blackjack has contributed more than $727,000 to a campaign aimed at defeating Todd's proposal. The revised language Todd proposed clarified that her measure may prohibit electronic gambling at that dog track and a Hot Springs horse track.

Martin's office rejected the new language after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in an advisory opinion it was still unclear what impact the casino measure would have on the tracks' electronic gambling.

Todd filed her lawsuit as lawmakers and election officials are reviewing potential changes to the state's petition process, which came under scrutiny after thousands of invalid signatures were submitted for Todd's proposal and a severance tax hike measure that failed to make the ballot.

Two top officials from Martin's office told a legislative panel that it would likely look at some changes in next year's session, but it was too soon to recommend any changes while ballot measures were being litigated.

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Andrew DeMillo can be reached at www.twitter.com/ademillo


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