Despite Name, Arkansas Casino Corp. Operator Closely Tied to Texas, Idaho

by Michael Whiteley and Mark Friedman  on Monday, Mar. 31, 2014 12:00 am  

A version of this article originally appeared in Arkansas Business on Oct. 9, 2000. It is being republished as part of Arkansas Business' 30th anniversary issue. You can access the digital edition for free here.

Last February, Robert W. Buchholz began to worry.

As an officer of Arkansas Casino Corp., the Dallas civil trial attorney feared that what happened in 1998 would happen again. That year, the company failed to round up enough signatures to put an initiative before the voters that would allow it to operate six casinos in Arkansas as well as pave the way for a state-run lottery and legalize charitable bingo.

So Buchholz stepped in with his checkbook and his legal expertise to eclipse Dallas securities dealer James C. Harris as the “go-to” man for the latest incarnation of Arkansas Casino Corp., a company that began as a 19th century Idaho mining enterprise and has repeatedly been cited for selling unregistered stock.

(Harris abandoned his position as chairman about two years ago and disappeared from Idaho corporate records in July of this year. Harris failed to return several phone calls left at his Dallas businesses.)

To make sure there would be enough signatures for the amendment to be placed on the 2000 ballot, Buchholz started circulating petitions in October 1999. Surely, he thought, that would be would be plenty of time for volunteers to collect enough signatures.

He was wrong.

After examining the number of signatures in February, Buchholz realized the company would be about 40,000 signatures short of the 70,601 needed to get on the ballot.

“I knew at the rate we were going, we were not going to make the ballot,” he said.

He then turned to National Voters Outreach, a Nevada company that promises to collect enough signatures to put any initiative on a ballot. NVO is so well known that Gov. Mike Huckabee used it to secure his ballot initiative concerning Arkansas’ share of the tobacco settlement. Fort Smith attorney Oscar Stilley, one of gambling’s chief foes, also has used the Carson City firm.

NVO workers swept the state and collected more than enough signatures to get the amendment on the Nov. 7 general election ballot. Buchholz said he opened his personal savings account to loan Arkansas Casino Corp. $240,818, part of which paid a $180,000 NVO bill.

If the amendment fails, Buchholz will have no way of collecting that money.

 

 

Please read our comments policy before commenting.