LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on Wednesday rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to allow casino-style table games in Arkansas. McDaniel found ambiguities in the text of the proposal by Nancy Todd's Poker Palace LLC.
LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on Wednesday rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to allow casino-style table games in Arkansas. McDaniel found ambiguities in the text of the proposal by Nancy Todd’s Poker Palace LLC.
The proposal calls for operation of casino-style table games in Crittenden, Franklin, Miller and Pulaski counties, as well as authorization to operate up to four casinos in those counties and licenses to operate up to 75 tables of casino-style games in Garland and Crittenden counties — where electronic games of skill are played at Oaklawn Park and Southland Greyhound Park.
Among McDaniel’s concerns with the proposal were whether it would require the games to be licensed and whether it would authorize the operator to run as many games in as many locations in the four counties as it chooses.
McDaniel said it was also unclear about the licensing role of the Arkansas Lottery Commission and whether the measure actually required distribution of tax revenue as stated in the measure: 24 percent to the counties and public schools; 16 percent to the Department of Veterans Affairs; 8 percent each to the state Medicaid program and senior prescription drug program; and 12 percent to the Lottery Commission for costs in initiating the program.
The company’s website describes Nancy Todd as a political consultant and president of Nancy Todd Inc., an international strategic consulting firm based in Las Vegas.
Todd said in addition to being a professional poker player, she has run campaigns for gaming initiatives across the country. She said she would review the attorney general’s opinion, rework her ballot initiative to address his concerns and resubmit it for McDaniel’s approval.
Todd said she spends weekdays in Arkansas gearing to promote the ballot initiative in a statewide campaign that she expects would cost $3 million to $4 million.
“My biggest focus is getting a document that works for the people of Arkansas,” she said in an interview with the Arkansas News Bureau. “The signature process is the easiest part of it.”
She said she was “OK with tackling” signature gathering herself but also would consider paid canvassers.
Todd said she envisioned a poker parlor in Little Rock and casinos operating in all four counties. While the establishments would bear her name, she said she would not actually be involved in day-to-day operations.
The Lottery Commission would regulate the casino program and hire entities to operate the games, she said.
“There are lots of owner-operators (but) none of those deals have been cut. The Lottery Commission would help find management,” she said. “I would like to make some recommendations of eight or nine legitimate operators … I’m a noted expert on the subject.” Casino initiatives have not fared well in Arkansas over the years in the face of heavy opposition from Christian conservative groups and others opposed to expansion of gambling in the state.
In 2006, the Legislature authorized local option elections on electronic games of skill at para-mutuel tracks in Hot Springs and West Memphis. Voters in both cities approved proposals. In 2008, former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter led a successful drive for a constitutional amendment to create a state lottery to fund college scholarships.
In November, McDaniel approved a proposal by Texas businessman Michael Wesserman for a constitutional amendment to authorize Wasserman’s Arkansas Hotels and Entertainment Inc. to operate casinos in Boone, Crittenden, Garland, Jefferson, Miller, Pulaski and Sebastian counties.
To get the proposal on the November general election ballot, Wasserman and his supporters must submit valid signatures of at least 77,133 registered Arkansas voters to the secretary of state’s office by July 6.
This article was later clarified with a correction. Click here to view it.