Pope County Casino Opposed by Choctaw Tribe-Funded Fair Play Arkansas

Fair Play Arkansas, a group financed by the Choctaw Tribe, has claimed that it has gathered the required number of signatures to repeal the casino in Pope County. According to the law, a group needs to have a minimum of 89,151 signatures and Fair Play Arkansas claims that it had 103,000 signatures on Friday, which was the deadline for submitting them. 

The Signatures Gathered by Fair Play Arkansas Are Yet to Be Validated 

Even though a recent poll suggested that a majority of residents in Pope County support the casino development project, Fair Play Arkansas claims otherwise. The group claims that the required number of signatures has been collected, but the Secretary of State needs to validate them before approving the group’s referendum wording, language, and title. 

Hans Stiritz, a spokesperson for Fair Play Arkansas, commented on the situation by saying that the group is “extremely grateful for the support” it received from state-wide voters. He noted that Pope County citizens want to be treated the same way as the 74 other counties in Arkansas and that they do not want a casino in their community. 

He went on to say that the group will continue collecting more signatures in the coming weeks and called upon the investigation of the Arkansas Tourism Alliance. ATA has an opposing ballot and Fair Play Arkansas wants an investigation for potential petition fraud to be conducted. 

According to Fair Play, the group has faced intimidation, harassment, and assault among other threats. Considering the fact that it is a serious violation of ethical and legal rules, it needs to be investigated.

Finally, the group noted that the scare tactics increased around the same time when ATA hired the Mark Jacoby-owned company, Let the Voters Decide, LLC. The Arkansas Ethics Commission filed a report which says that ATA has paid Jacoby $650,000, even though he was convicted of voter fraud in California. 

Casino Development Projects Were Funded by the Cherokee Nation Businesses

Back in 2018, the Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) funded a measure that would allow for casinos to be built in 4 counties – Crittenden, Jefferson, Garland, and Pope. After the voters approved the measure, CNB faced heavy bidding opposition from Gulfside Casino Partnership, an entity based in Mississippi. 

The process was made even more complicated when one of the commissioners of the Arkansas Racing Commission, Butch Rice, was found to be biased in the reviewing process. After Attorney General Leslie Rutledge intervened, the license was given to CNB, but since the process took a lot of time, Fair Play Arkansas had time to get ready and unleash its defense. 

In a response to Fair Play Arkansas’ votes, CNB stated that there are numerous improprieties in the process of gathering signatures. 

CNB’s attorney, David Couch, went on to say that CNB will continue to fight for the project that voters approved back in 2018 and will continue to provide the state with thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.

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