Yesterday, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling stating that the Arkansas Racing Commission violated the state Constitution’s Amendment 100 by handing out a casino operating permit in Pope County to a consortium formed by Cherokee Nation Businesses and Legends Resort and Casino.
The Supreme Court issued a 5-2 ruling with which it affirmed a ruling that was unveiled in January 2023 by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox. At the time, the Judge ruled that the Arkansas Racing Commission violated the licensing process by granting an operating permit to two entities when the state’s Constitution clearly states that a casino license could be held by a single entity. Furthermore, the court’s ruling found that Legends Resort and Casino did not meet the Arkansas Contitution’s licensing requirements because the operator had no experience in offering casino gaming services to that date.
The Cherokee Nation-Legends Consortium challenged Judge Fox’s ruling in Arkansas’ high court.
Now, the high court’s ruling paves the way for the state’s Racing Commission to set a new application period for the casino license in Pope County.
Arkansas Racing Commission Granted Legends/Cherokee Nation Consortium with Casino License in November 2021
In November 2021, the Arkansas Racing Commission was divided in its decision to grant the Legends/Cherokee Nation consortium the Pope County casino license after it annulled the operating permit that it awarded to Gulfside Casino Partnership in 2020. Both Cherokee Nation Business and Gulfside Casino Partnership were among the five businesses that participated in the initial application process for the aforementioned casino permit in May 2019.
The regulatory body’s decision was then challenged by Gulfside Casino Partnership, calling for Judge Fox to void the license to the consortium.
According to the Supreme Court of the state, the Arkansas Racing Commission accepted the Legends’ application as an amendment to Cherokee Nation Businesses’ application for “good causes shown” on May 7th, 2020.
The regulator’s decision to hand out the Pope County casino license to the consortium mentioned above in November 2021 came after in October 2021 the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed Judge Fox’s ruling under which a commission rule and state law that required local officials to provide a letter of support to the casino license candidates were declared unconstitutional.
Pope County Casino License Causes Much Controversy for the State
The casino license for Pope County has caused a lot of controversy for the country and the state over the last few years, which eventually resulted in multiple lawsuits.
The Arkansas Racing Commission was officially given the power to issue licenses for four full-scale casinos under the provisions of Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution which was given the green light by local voters in November 2018. Three of the four casinos already operate in Pine Bluff, Hot Springs, and West Memphis.
One of the administrators of the Regulatory Division at the Department of Finance and Administration, Trent Minner, shared that his department would collaborate with the state’s Racing Commission to open a new application window and would make sure that the process was in line with all requirements under Amendment 100 and no Arkansas laws were breached.