The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma remains hopeful that it would be able to soon begin the construction of its Arkansas casino resort project in Pope County, which has been estimated at $225 million.
Earlier this week, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a mandate formalizing its opinion from October 21st that turned down the chances of Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi to become the company that holds the only casino license in Pope County. The court’s opinion and mandate in CV-21-289 is considered the step that would pave the way for the only remaining applicant in the bedding process, Cherokee Nation Businesses of Oklahoma, to be granted an operating license that would allow it to proceed with its plans to establish a casino resort in Pope County.
The Arkansas Racing Commission, which currently oversees the casino application and licensing process along with the entire gambling sector in the state, has scheduled a meeting that would take place at 1:30 PM on November 12th to discuss the Supreme Court’s decision and the casino license.
The Legends Resort and Casino project was officially presented to the authorities of Pope County and the state back in 2019. The gaming and hospitality unit of the tribe – Cherokee Nation Businesses – has unveiled the plans for the casino resort’s establishment targeting Russellville.
Cherokee Nation Wants to Start the Casino Resort Construction as Soon as Possible
Recently, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the other casino project for Pope County, which was submitted by Gulfside Casino Partners, was not valid because it was supported by the former Pope Couty Judge Ed Gibson. Now, Cherokee Nation Businesses is willing to end the legal chaos surrounding the sole casino license in the county and move forward with the construction of its casino resort project.
As the company’s legal representative, Dustin McDaniel, shared in a statement, the Arkansas Supreme Court constituted the Legends Resort and Casino as the only qualified applicant for the Pope County Casino license that met the qualification conditions. As mentioned above, the Arkansas gambling regulatory body plans to discuss the matter later today but the Cherokee Nation’s attorney does not think the Arkansas Racing Commission has anything to consider, as the matter has already been settled by the Supreme Court.
It is the gambling regulator who is currently entitled to issuing casino operating licenses and governing gambling operators. However, Mr. McDaniel claims that the state agency has no legal authority to suspend the Cherokee Nation Businesses’ casino. As the Supreme Court ruled, the Director of the Arkansas Racing Commission, Smokey Campbell, is supposed to issue the operating license for the Pope County Casino to the Cherokee Nation.
The legal representative of the tribal gambling operator also noted that the company will file a legal action in case the Racing Commission interferes. Such a move would force the state’s gambling regulator to step aside and issue the casino permit to the tribal company. Mr. McDaniel said that the operator has discussed the situation with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office to make sure that the November 12th meeting is only informational and the Arkansas Racing Commission would clear the way for the company to perform its administrative duties.
Judge Says Legends Resort and Casino Would Bring Economic Benefits for the Region
Three years ago, the residents of Pope County rejected the ballot referendum that passed in the state. Although they voted with a “no” to the initiative, the amendment altered the Constitution of Arkansas to permit the establishment of a casino in the county.
Last week, the disputes regarding the casino license issuance had finally seen the Pope County Quorum Court pass a symbolic resolution that presented the opposition of the local government to any casino being allowed to proceed with construction and operation. Local officials have urged Judge Cross to revoke his letter of support for the construction of the Cherokee Nation Businesses’ casino. However, the Judge supported the project, saying that such a property would bring economic benefits for the region.
The tribal gambling company has made the deal even more appealing as it agreed to make a $38.8-million investment into Pope County. The contributions would be directed not only to the county and municipality governments but also to local organizations, scholarship funds, art programs, etc. As Cherokee Nation Businesses revealed, its Legends Resort and Casino would directly employ 1,000 people upon opening. The project is expected to generate annual tax revenue of about $5 million for the county, while its 10-year economic impact is expected to surpass $3 billion.