- Associated Press - Monday, April 23, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas’ highest court rejected an effort Monday to force the state’s attorney general to approve the wording of a ballot measure that would legalize casinos in four counties.

The state Supreme Court denied a petition by Driving Arkansas Forward, the group trying to put the casinos legalization measure on the ballot in November.

The group sued after Attorney General Leslie Rutledge rejected the wording of its proposed constitutional amendment for the fourth time. Rutledge must approve the measure’s wording before the group can gather the thousands of signatures needed to put the proposal on the ballot.

Justices did not elaborate on their reason for rejecting the petition in their one-page order.

“Attorney General Rutledge is pleased that the Supreme Court agreed with her argument and denied the petition from Driving Arkansas Forward,” Nicole Ryan, a spokeswoman for Rutledge, said in a statement. “Recently, the Supreme Court has set a very high bar for proposals to be determined as sufficiently clear to appear on the ballot, and it is the attorney general’s responsibility is to ensure that voters fully understand what exactly a ‘for’ or ‘against’ vote means.”

Under the group’s proposal, two of the casinos would be allowed at or adjacent to the Oaklawn horse track in Hot Springs and at the Southland greyhound track in West Memphis. The measure would also allow a casino in Jefferson County and another in Pope County. The bulk of the taxes collected from the casinos’ revenue would go toward state highways.

“We are disappointed by the court’s decision because we believe voters deserve an opportunity to be heard on a matter that would support Arkansas highways and create jobs for communities that need them,” group spokesman Aaron Sadler said in a statement. “In the meantime, we will continue working to address the attorney general’s concerns so that we can begin collecting signatures as soon as possible.”

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