On July 30th, the Arkansas Racing Commission ruled to provide Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi with an official permit to operate a casino venue in Pope County. The decision was made with 3 to 2 votes and is set to fuel further court action.
The meeting of the Arkansas Racing Commission yesterday was aimed at the regulatory body making a decision on what actions should be taken in regard to the competing applications for a casino operating license in Pope County. The two competitors for the permit are Cherokee Nation Business of Oklahoma and Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi.
The issue has been a matter of much discussion and disagreement, with the fairness of the scoring of the regulatory body’s members having been challenged. In any case, whatever the decision made by the Arkansas Racing Commission, legal controversy has been awaited, as the opponents of ANY casino in Pope County returned to Pulaski Circuit Court, seeking the annulment of the regulator’s decision to award a casino operating license under the existing rules.
The opponents of the Arkansas Racing Commission’s ruling say that new rules must be adopted by the watchdog because of previous court rulings. Various controversies, including private meetings held by local officials before a deal with the Cherokees was made, were also listed as grounds of the injunction against the Commission.
Whatever the Decision Is, the Issue Will Be Taken to Court
The attorney of the Cherokee Nation Business of Oklahoma, Dustin McDaniel, challenged the record of his client’s rival, saying that the company’s owners participated in a cruise ship casino in Texas and a range of other activities. Mr. McDaniel challenged the ability of Gulfside’s owners to provide enough financing for the large resort hotel that was proposed by the company at the time when applications were assessed by the regulator. He further said that should Gulfside receive a casino operating license from the Arkansas Racing Commission, he would appeal the decision in court on behalf of his clients.
On the other hand, Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi argued that it was the only valid applicant for the Pope County casino license, as it was the only applicant that filed an application backed with approval from local officials during the initial application period. However, the application was turned down, because the local officials that had backed it were no longer in office, while the rules require the support of current officials. That rule was declared unconstitutional by a judge.
At the time when the arguments of the two parties were completed, Deputy Attorney General Brian Bowen described the options which the commission has, and also explained that whatever the decision was, it would be challenged in court. The Arkansas Racing Commission could decide to restore the applications. The regulatory body could also allow an independent third party to assess the applications, but such a step would require some changes to be brought into the existing rules. The watchdog could also decide to reject the Cherokee motion that the Commission had been misled by the other applicant for the casino license and should not be granted the license.