Gambling & Racing Commission TVC
The Arkansas Racing Commission today will decide the fate of a Mississippi company's appeal of the board's decision to deny it a license to open a casino in Pope County.
The commission is also expected to reopen the casino license application period for 90 days because Pope County officials Tuesday endorsed a proposal from another operator -- Cherokee Nation Businesses -- to operate a casino just north of Russellville.
The commission's decisions are expected to set in motion the next round of lawsuits over the establishment of a casino in the Arkansas River Valley.
A reversal granting Gulfside Casino Partnership the final of four Arkansas licenses would invite legal challenges from anti-casino groups that argue that the company's letters of support from lame-duck officeholders are insufficient.
If the appeal is denied, Gulfside officials have signaled that the company would seek court intervention if the denial is based on the support letters source before the company made its application.
Today's meeting is the latest in a series of complications surrounding the possible opening of a casino in Pope County.
Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution, which voters approved in 2018, legalized such an establishment in Pope and Jefferson counties, plus the expansion of gambling at racetracks in West Memphis and Hot Springs.
The casinos in Pope and Jefferson counties must be supported by local officials under Amendment 100.
In Pope County, voters rejected Amendment 100 and approved an initiated county ordinance that required an election to decide if officials should be allowed to support a casino.
Tuesday's vote by the Pope County Quorum Court removed the first major hurdle in the way of Cherokee Nation Businesses, which wants to build Gambling and racing commission Resort and Casino.
Four other casino groups, including Gulfside, have tried unsuccessfully to get support from current Pope County officials.
The ordinance wasn't addressed in Tuesday's meeting.
Next, the Cherokees need the Racing Commission to reopen the license application period, allowing them to submit an updated proposal that includes Pope County support.
The Racing Commission is housed in the Finance Department.
Prospective casino operators have been competing for support from residents and officials gambling and racing commission Pope County.
The city of Russellville was left out of the agreement.
Neither Russellville Mayor Richard Harris nor Cherokee Nation Businesses responded to questions Wednesday about the city being omitted.
The Russellville City Council, which has generally opposed a casino, adopted a resolution Monday directing Harris to meet with casino groups.
Several legal actions have already been put into motion.
A local group of casino opponents Tuesday sued County Judge Ben Cross and members of the Quorum Court, arguing that they didn't have the authority to endorse a casino license application without first holding a local election on the matter, as required by the initiated ordinance.
However, government attorneys and lawyers for the casino groups have said that Amendment 100 supersedes that ordinance.
Additionally, a Pope County justice of the peace and several citizens complained to the Pope County prosecuting attorney Monday that several justices of the peace had held secret meetings about the casino issue in violation of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
Fifth Judicial Circuit Prosecuting Gambling and racing commission Jeff Phillips said in a Wednesday phone interview that he'd given the complaint a preliminary review, and he expected to make a decision gambling and racing commission the matter by the end of the week.
It would also include a 200-room hotel with an adjoining conference center, creating an estimated total of about 1,000 jobs.
In addition to proposals from Cherokee Nation Businesses and Gulfside, the Racing Commission denied casino license applications from Kehl Management of Iowa; Warner Gaming of Nevada; and Choctaw Nation Division of Commerce of Oklahoma.
All were denied because they lacked the required letters of support from local, current officials.
Gulfside had secured support letters from two Pope County officials before they left office in December, but the commission declined to accept letters from past officeholders.
Gulfside was the only applicant to appeal the denial of its application.
Arkansas doesn't need anymore Indian casinos, there is already one 90 miles down the interstate.
A Hard Rock casino or the people from Mississippi would be better.
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