Arkansas Citizens Group Seeks to Rescind Pope County Casino License

Posted on: February 20, 2024, 08:30h. 

Last updated on: February 20, 2024, 11:51h.

An Arkansas citizens group called Local Voters in Charge is seeking to repeal the commercial casino license earmarked for Pope County through a statewide ballot referendum.

Arkansas casino referendum Pope County
Russellville has been targeted by two casino developments. A new group in Arkansas called Local Voters in Charge seeks to repeal the possible casino license for Russellville’s Pope County. (Image: Facebook)

Local Voters in Charge has submitted its proposed constitutional amendment to Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin’s office.

The ballot committee wants to amend Amendment 100, passed in 2018 by statewide voters, that authorized a single commercial casino in the counties of Crittenden, Garland, Jefferson, and Pope counties.

The proposed referendum would strip the language from the Arkansas Constitution that reads, “The Arkansas Racing Commission shall award a casino license to a casino applicant for a casino to be located in Pope County within two miles of the city limits of the county seat.”

The proposed referendum additionally seeks to require that local voters in a county being targeted for a casino in the future have the final say on the project. That would be done by way of a countywide special election.

Local Input 

The grassroots Local Voters in Charge believe the state should fold on the Pope County casino following a years-long legal saga that continues to this day. The license remains unsettled more than five years after it was authorized. recently broke down the backstory that involves numerous legal cases.

Many Pope County residents never wanted the casino in the first place. During the 2018 referendum, a little more than 54% of the statewide vote was in support of approving the four casinos.

Residents in Pope County strongly rejected the ballot referendum, with nearly 60.6% of county voters expressing their opposition to the casino question. Pope was one of only 11 counties among the 75 in Arkansas that voted against Amendment 100.

The three other counties designated casinos each voted in favor of the question.

Along with rescinding the Arkansas Racing Commission’s power to issue a gaming concession for Pope County, the Local Voters in Charge campaign wants to give area residents the final authority in determining all future casino outcomes.

“If a constitutional amendment authorizes or otherwise allows the issuance of a casino license for any county other than those issued now and hereafter … then the county quorum court shall call a special election … to submit the question of whether to approve a casino in the county,” the proposed referendum reads.

Path to Ballot

Arkansas allows citizen-initiated referendums. For the state constitutional amendment to reach voters, the campaign must first receive approval from Griffin’s office. The attorney general will consider the ballot’s title and wording to determine whether the amendment language is easy to understand.

Griffin’s predecessor, Arkansas Lt. Gov. Leslie Rutledge (R), was notorious for rejecting referendums seeking to expand gaming. Her office pushed back numerous casino referendums until she finally allowed Amendment 100 to be printed on the 2018 ballot.

If Griffin greenlights Local Voters in Charge’s proposal, the campaign faces a large task. It would need to secure the signatures of at least 10% of the total number of votes cast during the state’s most recent gubernatorial election. That equates to a minimum of 90,704 signatures. Signatures must be collected in at least 50 counties.

If the signatures are collected and verified by the Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston’s office, the measure would go before voters. Only a simple majority would amend the state’s constitution.