- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Supporters of a plan to legalize casinos in three Arkansas counties won additional time Wednesday to circulate petitions after falling short of the number of signatures needed to put their proposal on the November ballot.

The proposed constitutional amendment would legalize casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties.

Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office said it had verified that 63,725 of the signatures submitted by Arkansas Wins in 2016 were from registered voters, shy of the 84,859 needed to qualify for the ballot. But since the group had gathered at least 75 percent of the valid signatures needed, it has until Aug. 26 to gather more, Martin’s office said.

“Our campaign has covered significant ground in a short period of time because voters across the state understand the positive impact this proposal will have in the form of jobs, economic growth, tourism, and tax revenue,” Arkansas Wins spokesman Robert Coon said in a statement. “We’re pleased with the results of the secretary of state’s validation process, and we remain confident in our ability to obtain the number of signatures necessary over the next several weeks to place this amendment on the ballot this November.”

Coon said the group also expected to challenge the state’s ruling that some signatures aren’t valid, saying they’d provide proof as to why the signatures should be counted.



Arkansas Wins last month announced it had struck a deal with Cherokee Nation Entertainment to run the Washington County casino if voters approve the measure. Video poker and other forms of electronic gambling are currently legal at the Oaklawn horse track in Hot Springs and the Southland dog track in West Memphis.

The secretary of state’s office is still reviewing signatures submitted for two other proposed amendments, one to legalize medical marijuana and the other to limit damages awarded in medical lawsuits. Martin’s office earlier this month said enough signatures had been submitted for a competing medical marijuana proposal.

Jerry Cox, head of the conservative Family Council Action Committee, said he expected the casino proposal would likely have enough signatures and said he was preparing to campaign against the measure.

“What this does is it just opens more roads for people to harm themselves and for people to harm people around them like their spouses and their children,” Cox said. “It’s just not worth it.”

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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