On Friday, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel grudgingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would grant a private company a virtual monopoly on casino gambling in Arkansas.
The amendment offers a broad definition of casino gambling (basically, it’s a wager of any kind), and dictates that the Arkansas Legislature will simply not regulate casino gaming in Arkansas. Obviously, that should give everyone pause. Specifically, it says, “Unless otherwise specifically provided herein, neither the General Assembly nor any political subdivision of this State shall enact any legislation, rule, or regulation regarding the operation of casino gaming as defined in this Amendment.”
Based on what was in his approval opinion, I gather that Attorney General McDaniel doesn’t like that provision. His job as A.G., however, is to decide whether or not a ballot title is inaccurate or misleading–not whether a ballot measure is legally sound. As such, he offered the following sentiments in his opinion:
Neither certification nor rejection of a popular name and ballot title reflects my viewof the merits of the proposal. This Office has been given no authority toconsider the merits of any measure…I believe a cautionary note is warranted due to the significance of the subject matteraddressed – i.e., taxation and legalized gaming – and the complexity and far reaching effects of this amendment…In your latest submission, you have responded by submitting a proposal of stark simplicity,which, tracking a proposal approved by this office in Op. Att’y Gen. No. 2011-141, simply dispenses with regulation of casino gaming altogether, proposing by the extraordinary avenue of constitutional amendment to afford a named entity totally unregulated monopoly control over a broadly defined category of “casino gaming.” In this regard, I feel obliged to underscore the limited scope of my approval, which represents no more than an acknowledgment that the amended ballot title accurately summarizes the substance of your measure, whose merits or legal adequacy I have not yet addressed. You should be aware that this office might be called upon at a later point to advise the Secretary of State regarding the constitutional and other legal implications of your measure.
I’ve seen a lot of Attorney General opinions in my time. With that in mind, I would classify this one as the most grudging acceptance of a ballot measure I’ve ever seen. I think the Attorney General’s office probably has some strong reservations about the language of the proposed amendment, and, frankly, I’m inclined to agree.
Arkansas doesn’t need any more gambling. If anything, we could do with a whole lot less of it. However, writing a private corporation into the constitution, and giving them unfettered control over an entire industry is just foolish.
Jerry is the founder and president of Family Council. He began Family Council in 1989 after a successful effort to amend the Arkansas Constitution to prevent the use of public funds for abortions. He and his wife reside in Little Rock. They have four sons.