Legislature Could Shuffle New Deal for Casino

Legislature Could Shuffle New Deal for Casino

Can the General Assembly alter an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution? The question is relevant because Clarksville has indicated interest in hosting a casino if Pope County rejects it.

You may remember the controversy over the holidays in which the outgoing Pope County judge, Jim Ed Gibson, and outgoing Russellville mayor, Randy Horton, wrote letters of support for a casino proposal from Gulfside Casino Partnership for a 600-room $254 million hotel and casino in Pope County.

But newly elected Russellville Mayor Richard Harris opposes the casino, and Ben Cross, the new county judge, says he supports what the voters of Pope County want, and they voted overwhelmingly against Issue 4.

Still, most statewide voters supported Issue 4, which became Amendment 100 to the Constitution. It authorizes the state Racing Commission to approve licenses for four casinos, in Crittenden, Garland, Jefferson and Pope counties.

While Pope County opposes a casino, Clarksville Mayor David Rieder said his city, in Johnson County, might be interested. A recent Facebook poll on the Mayor of Clarksville’s page found that 66 percent of respondents supported a casino in Johnson County, though that post had been deleted as of Thursday. And on Jan. 11 the Clarksville City Council voted to send a letter of support for a casino.

Rieder was at an Arkansas Municipal League meeting last week and didn’t return a call from Whispers.

So could Johnson County — or any other locale in Arkansas — somehow take the place of Pope County? Seems barely possible.

Article 5 of the Arkansas Constitution says initiatives voted on by the people can only be repealed or amended “upon a yea and nay vote on roll call of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house of the General Assembly…”