Yesterday, the Russellville City Council gave the green light to a resolution that welcomed the casino operator Cherokee Nation Businesses to town. In addition, an ordinance calling for an election to appropriate the site that has been considered for hosting a casino venue.
The move was made after month-long arguments between the city of Russellville and the county, as well as complaints, court action and a massive rift between proponents and opponents of a casino project.
Mayor Richard Harris, who opposed the idea, commented after the meeting that the discussions between him and Pope County’s judge Ben Cross would continue until a resolution is reached. He further noted that he was okay with the latest actions of the City Council. Ben Cross, on the other hand, backed last night’s decision of the Council, saying it came as a positive step towards future economic development for the region.
The resolution comes after the closure of the Racing Commission’s second window for casino license application submission for casino operation in Pope County. As CasinoGamesPro previously reported, two operators have submitted applications for casino operating licenses to the commission – the Chocktaw Nation and the Cherokee Nation.
Voters in Pope County Previously Rejected Amendment 100 to Allow Casino Gambling
Last November, state voters gave the nod to Amendment 100, under which new casinos were allowed in Jefferson and Pope Counties. The amendment also allows casino gambling expansion at the racetracks situated in West Memphis and Hot Springs. New casino projects, however, require local officials to give their approval, too.
The voters in Pope County rejected the amendment and gave their approval to an initial county ordinance under which local residents must vote to decide in case they want officials to support a casino applicant. That ordinance has also been repealed.
The second round of the casino operating license application process was opened after in June 2019 the Arkansas Racing Commission rejected all five applicants for the proposed casino venue in Pope County. Lack of endorsements by local officials was pointed as the reason why all applications got rejected.
One of the candidates from the first round of application process, however, Gulfside Casino Partnership, is suing the Arkansas Racing Commission, claiming its application was the only one that included the required endorsements. In case the court rules in favor of Gulfside, that would mean that it was a rightful competitor in the application process all along. Such a ruling could also affect the second round of application.
Only one of the two applicants which filed their projects over the second window has been backed by local officials. The outcome of the application process remains unknown for the time being, not to mention the fact that the court also needs to announce its decision in the aforementioned lawsuit.