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Arkansas Reopens Pope County Casino License

Following the Arkansas Racing Commission's decision to reopen bidding for a casino license in Pope County, multiple operators express interest in establishing casinos in Russellville, Arkansas. Learn about the application process, legal challenges, and the economic significance of the casino for Pope County.
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Arkansas Flag

Branimir Ivanov | Senior News Contributor

Updated: May 8, 2024

The Arkansas Movement

The Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) has rekindled the process of issuing a casino license in Pope County, Arkansas, following a meeting held on Monday. This decision comes amidst considerable interest from casino operators and stakeholders, marking the third attempt in over five years to issue the license.

The reopening of the license application period was confirmed during Monday's meeting, with the application window set to open on May 12 and close on June 11. Scott Hardin, a spokesperson for the ARC, emphasized the commission's obligation to issue the license within 30 business days of June 11, provided there are no unforeseen delays.

 

Key Points

  1. Reopening of License Bidding: The Arkansas Racing Commission has reopened the bidding process for a casino license in Pope County, Arkansas, following a recent decision. This marks the third attempt in over five years to issue the license.
  2. Operator Interest in Russellville: Multiple operators, including River Valley and Legends Resort & Casino, are eyeing Russellville, Arkansas, as a potential location for their casinos. Gulfside Casino Partnership and Cherokee Nation Businesses have expressed their intent to present proposals to the Pope County Quorum Court for support.
  3. Significance of Local Support and Economic Impact: Local support, demonstrated through letters of support from County Judge or Quorum Court, is crucial for applicants. The successful applicant will kickstart a year and a half process to establish the casino, impacting Pope County's economy significantly.

 

To be considered for the license, applicants are required to submit their applications along with a letter of support from the County Judge or an Ordinance of Support from the Quorum Court. The authority to select the companies to be considered rests with local leaders, underlining the significance of local support in the application process.

Two prominent entities, River Valley and Legends Resort & Casino, have emerged as potential contenders for the license, targeting Russellville, Arkansas. Following the ARC's decision to reopen bidding for the license, Gulfside Casino Partnership and Cherokee Nation Businesses expressed appreciation for the commission's actions.

Casey Castleberry, counsel for Gulfside Casino Partnership, stated, “We appreciate the Arkansas Racing Commission making it clear the application period will open Sunday and close on June 12.” Gulfside Casino Partnership is poised to present its proposal to the Pope County Quorum Court for support.

Similarly, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Chuck Garrett expressed confidence in their bid, saying, “Having obtained the exclusive support of Pope County Judge Ben Cross… we anticipate being the sole qualified applicant.” Cherokee Nation Businesses has garnered support for their proposed Legends Resort & Casino in Russellville.

The issuance of the license remains a significant milestone for the selected applicant, as it signals the beginning of the operational phase, expected to take about a year and a half.

This latest development follows years of legal challenges surrounding the issuance of the Pope County casino license. Two previous attempts were invalidated by the courts, involving Gulfside Casino Partnership and Cherokee Nation Business in partnership with Legends Resort & Casino.

The process stems from the approval of Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution in 2018, which allowed for the operation of four casinos in the state. The first two licensees, Southland Casino Hotel and Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, were established in West Memphis and Hot Springs, respectively.

The third license, issued in Jefferson County, led to the launch of Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff. However, the Pope County license has faced numerous hurdles and legal disputes.

 

“Having obtained the exclusive support of Pope County Judge Ben Cross as required by Amendment 100 and a resolution of support from the Pope County Quorum Court, we anticipate being the sole qualified applicant.”

 

Support for the Pope County casino is divided, with both proponents and opponents expressing their views. The involvement of multiple operators underscores the economic potential and significance of the casino to the region.

As the application process opens for the third time, attention turns to the outcome of the selection process and the subsequent development of the casino, poised to be a transformative venture for Pope County and its residents.

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