Arkansas Casino License for Pope County Has New Timeline

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Posted on: January 31, 2024, 01:43h. 

Last updated on: January 31, 2024, 11:16h.

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The Arkansas casino licence earmarked for Pope County will apt beryllium issued earlier nan extremity of nan year. That’s according to an updated timeline connected really nan Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) will spell astir fielding bids for nan gaming opportunity and issuing nan state’s 4th and last commercialized casino license.

Arkansas casino Pope CountyAlex Lieblong, chair of nan Arkansas Racing Commission, is consulted by state’s Deputy Attorney Doralee Chandler connected really to spell astir considering caller bids for nan Pope County casino license. The Pope County casino concession remains unissued much than 5 years aft authorities voters authorized its issuance. (Image: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

The ARC connected Tuesday formally adopted revised rules to its casino gaming protocols successful considering applications and approving bids. The updated procedures came aft commissioners were advised by counsel supplied by Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin’s (R) office.

The gaming and equine racing agency’s revisions first require nan endorsement of Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R). After she signs disconnected connected nan framework, nan conditions will move to nan Legislative Council for review.

Once nan Council issues its blessing, nan ARC will beryllium cleared to unfastened a 30-day bidding play for casino developers willing successful securing nan Pope County casino concession.

How We Arrived Here

In 2018, Arkansans approved a statewide ballot referendum to let a azygous casino successful nan counties of Crittenden, Garland, Jefferson, and Pope.

Two of nan licenses were allocated for nan Southland and Oaklawn racino racetracks, respectively located successful Crittenden and Garland counties. Southland and Oaklawn person since opened Las Vegas-style casinos.

A 3rd licence was fixed to nan Quapaw Nation, a Native American people successful Oklahoma, but pinch heavy humanities ties to Arkansas. The Quapaws collaborated pinch authorities officials successful Jefferson to unfastened nan Saracen Casino Resort.

The Pope licence remains up for grabs much than 5 years aft nan gaming licence was authorized by voters. Two bidders — nan Cherokee Nation Businesses, nan commercialized portion of nan Cherokee Nation successful Oklahoma, and Mississippi-based Gulfside Casino Partnership — person tied up nan Pope licence successful court.

The Pope County casino saga began successful 2020 erstwhile a commissioner was found to person a bias successful grading nan Gulfside scheme a cleanable 100/100. He did truthful while giving nan Cherokees’ bid conscionable 29 points. Despite nan scandal, nan ARC’s rules required it to rumor Gulfside nan licence wrong 30 days of nan agency’s vote.

The Cherokees sued nan authorities connected grounds that nan ARC shouldn’t person moreover considered nan Gulfside transportation to build a $254 cardinal destination successful Russellville called River Valley Casino Resort. In a lawsuit that reached nan authorities Supreme Court, it was wished that Amendment 100 connection necessitating a casino bid to person nan support of nan region judge aliases quorum court referred only to a sitting judge aliases quorum court, not a erstwhile judge aliases quorum court.

The Gulfside transportation included nan endorsement of Pope County Judge Ed Gibson, who lent his support to nan casino conscionable days earlier he exited agency successful December 2018.

Lawsuits Continue

With nan Arkansas Supreme Court invalidating nan Gulfside pitch, nan ARC deemed nan Cherokees’ $300 cardinal proposal, called Legends Resort & Casino — besides targeting Russellville — arsenic nan winner. Gulfside past sued nan ARC connected grounds that nan Cherokee transportation besides violated Amendment 100.

In yet different lawsuit that reached nan state’s highest court, it was wished that nan Cherokees violated nan amendment by bidding arsenic a consortium. The Cherokee Nation Businesses connection included a recently formed entity called Legends Resort & Casino, LLC.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled that Amendment 100 required nan ARC to only see bids from azygous entities that tin show proficiency successful moving commercialized casinos. Though nan Legends LLC is afloat controlled by nan CNB, which has immense acquisition successful gaming, nan bid including 2 entities rendered it absolute.   

The ARC’s refreshed bidding rules for Pope County person not yet been made public.

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