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Arkansas SOS receives over 103,000 signatures to remove Pope County as casino site

Publish Date: 07/09/2022
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
Video: 100K signatures turned in for Pope Co. Casino removal amendment

100K signatures turned in for Pope Co. Casino removal amendment

Two ballot titles were submitted to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s (SOS) office on Friday, July 8. If certified, Arkansas voters will be asked to vote on two questions, one concerning recreational marijuana and the other regarding a proposed casino in Pope County.

The signatures must first be validated by the SOS. It takes 89,151 valid signatures for a proposal to be approved for the ballot.

Responsible Growth for Arkansas, the organization sponsoring the adult-use marijuana plan, submitted more than 192,000 petition signatures and the ballot title for certification on Friday morning. The ballot initiative would allow adults to possess one ounce of marijuana but not homegrown. It would also add 80 marijuana dispensaries to the existing 40 medical marijuana dispensaries in Arkansas, raising the total to 120.

With more than 103,000 petition signatures gathered, another question on the ballot is to remove Pope County as a place for a casino, decreasing the state’s four licenses to three.

Arkansas voters approved a casino amendment in 2018 that established four casino licenses. Two of the four licenses were granted to Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort and Southland Casino Racing, which had already been operating under various state regulations before 2018. The third license was given to Jefferson County, and the fourth was designated to Pope County.

Saracen Casino Resort opened in Jefferson County in October 2020, while Pope County casino plans are entangled in lawsuits with multiple groups fighting for one license. There are also political corruption allegations, and a casino has still not opened in Pope County.

According to Fair Play for Arkansas, too many people in Pope County spoke out against the project and didn’t want other voters to mandate a casino in their backyard. Hans Stiritz with Fair Play for Arkansas said that canvassers will continue collecting signatures in the coming weeks to prepare for multiple legal challenges.

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