The Supreme Court of Arkansas is soon expected to make a decision which of the two rival gambling companies will get permission to build the fourth casino in the state. The Supreme Court’s session was officially owned last week, with the court likely to soon rule on the case.
The casino venue, which is set to be established in Pope County, is being pursued by two gambling groups. In 2020, the Arkansas gambling regulator granted a casino operating license to Gulfside Casino Partnership but Cherokee Nation Businesses has brought to court a letter of support for the gambling company of Jim Ed Gibson, a Pope County Judge, only a week and a half before his office tenure went to an end on December 31st, 2018.
Originally, the casino operation bid of Gulfside Casino Partnership was rejected by the Arkansas Racing Commission, which at the time cited rules under which the country judge or quorum court in office must support and approve the project when operators apply for operating permits.
However, those requirements were ruled unconstitutional by a lower court, which found that the rules improperly became part of Arizona’s gaming constitutional amendment that was given the green light by local voters back in 2018. A letter of support is required by the aforementioned amendment but, actually, there are no requirements for submission. It was confirmed that Judge Jim Ed Gibson was out of office at the time when the gambling group submitted its casino permit application in May 2019.
After a ruling on the case was issued by the lower court, Gulfside Casino Partnership received the casino operating license in June 2020.
Two Casino Companies Pursue to Establish Presence in Pope County
For the time being, Cherokee Nation Businesses owns 10 casino facilities in the northeast part of Oklahoma, including Tulsa-based Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. A spokesman for the tribal gambling operator expressed the company’s gratitude for Ben Cross, the incumbent Pope County judge, and further noted that a binding agreement for economic development was reached between Pope County and the company in August 2019. The deal includes a guaranteed minimum project investment worth $225 million and an upfront investment amounting to more than $38 million.
Recently, Judge Cross was criticized by the Pope County Quorum Court for what he did in relation to the case.
Cherokee Nation Businesses’ counsel Casey Castleberry explained that the gambling operator had been the first to propose a casino-style resort for the River Valley. As explained by the operator, this was exactly the reason why Pope County Judge Jim Ed Gibson had decided to provide the tribal casino company with his letter of support. Ms. Castleberry further noted that the judge’s letter meets all legal requirements.
Both gambling groups currently have offices in Russellville, with Cherokee Nation Businesses having a presence there since September 2019, while Gulfside Casino Partnership has been there for about a month.
Gulfside has unveiled a $254-million casino complex project called River Valley Casino Resort, which will feature an 80,000-square-foot gaming space and is expected to create over 1,500 permanent jobs. The company has enlisted AnderCorp LLC and Nabholz Corp. to lead the complex’s construction. On the other hand, Cherokee Nationa Business has unveiled a $225-million project called Legends Resort & Casino, which is set to feature a 50,000-square-foot gaming space and 200 hotel rooms, and could create over 1,000 jobs on a permanent basis. The tribal casino operator has engaged CDI Contractors of Little Rock for the construction of the project.