LITTLE ROCK — A ballot measure that would give a professional poker player the exclusive right to operate casinos in Arkansas defines gambling so broadly that it would include some types of pinball machines and state fair games, a campaign funded by a Hot Springs horse track told the Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday.
The Arkansas Racing Alliance and professional poker player Nancy Todd disagreed on the impact of Todd’s proposed constitutional amendment in dueling briefs filed with the court. Justices are considering the alliance’s lawsuit trying to block Todd’s amendment, which would allow her to operate casinos in four counties.
The alliance, which is funded by Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs, said the proposal defines "casino gaming" so broadly that it would include most games that offer prizes or money. Oaklawn and Southland, a West Memphis dog track, both offer electronic gambling — such as video poker — and have argued Todd’s amendment would repeal the law allowing them to operate those games.
The alliance’s brief said the impact would include arcade or state fair games that offer any kind of prize.
"Pinball machines are within the definition if players receive a prize or ‘representative value’ of some kind," the group said in its brief. "These examples are not trivial, speculative, or forced. They all fit comfortably within the definition of ‘casino gaming.’"
The group, however, acknowledged that it was unlikely that Todd "would risk antagonizing potential patrons by aggressively seeking to enforce its definition to the fullest scope."
Todd’s attorneys argued that the group’s lawsuit should be dismissed because it raises the same questions argued in a lawsuit she’s filed with the court over her amendment that’s before the high court. Todd is suing the state for rejecting the wording of her amendment after election officials said it didn’t inform voters it would repeal the so-called electronic games of skill offered at the tracks.
The rejection came in response to a complaint filed with election officials by a campaign funded solely by Southland. Todd argued the lawsuit was part of a coordinated effort by the two tracks to defeat her proposal.
"Petitioners, in their 11th hour attempt to challenge the measure for a second time, fail to state sufficient facts to shift the burden of proof to intervenors," Todd’s brief said.
The alliance’s lawsuit also claims that a firm it retained found 2,509 of the signatures that were submitted by Todd were insufficient. Todd argued the group did not back up its claims. The alliance has asked the court to review the petitions.
Todd’s proposal has been tentatively certified for the ballot, and the secretary of state’s office has said votes won’t be counted if she loses her bid before the Supreme Court. The office, named as a defendant in the alliance’s lawsuit, asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
The court last week rejected a Texas businessman’s bid to get a competing casino legalization measure on the ballot, ruling that he was not entitled to additional time to gather signatures.
Andrew DeMillo can be reached at www.twitter.com/ademillo