The ongoing saga over the casino situation in Pope County, Arkansas, entered a new chapter on Monday after one of the rejected applicants mounted a legal challenge against the Arkansas Racing Commission.
The commission reopened the window for casino applications, allowing bids until Nov. 18, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock reported Monday.
The Democrat-Gazette reported last week that Gulfside Casino Partnership filed a lawsuit on Aug. 15 in Pulaski County Circuit Court, following the Pope County Quorum Court’s decision to reject its application to open a casino. Pope County instead favored a proposal by Cherokee Nation Businesses.
The Pope County Quorum Court – a body which functions like a county commission in Arkansas – had previously denied Gulfside’s application as it had not included a letter of support from an elected official currently in office. However, Gulfside and its supporters argue that a letter issued by previous incumbents already met that requirement.
According to documents obtained by Little Rock ABC affiliate KATV, the Mississippi-based Gulfside Casino Partnership has also asked the court to grant an injunction to bar the commission from granting a license until the case has been resolved.
“Gulfside is the only Pope County applicant that timely complied with every requirement of Amendment 100,” Casey Castleberry, Gulfside’s attorney, is quoted as saying. “We are disappointed by the Racing Commission’s decision, but believe we have a strong case to appeal its denial during the judicial process.
“When we receive the license, we look forward to building our first-class resort and fulfilling our commitment to be a strong partner to the River Valley.”
If granted, the injunction will be bad news for the Cherokee Nation’s proposed casino, Legends Resort and Casino, which Hope County greenlit last week.
The Cherokee Nation Businesses has partnered with Legends, the stadium management company founded by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, to design and build the proposed casino. The plan for the 135-acre resort in Russellville includes more than 50,000 feet of gaming space, a luxury hotel, dining options, a water park and even a music venue.
Chuck Garrett, who was elected Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO last week, said the Cherokees were "pleased to see the Arkansas Racing Commission open the formal window this morning," according to Monday’s Democrat-Gazette story.
However, there has been growing opposition to the decision to award the license to the Cherokee Nation Businesses.
According to the Arkansas Times, local concern stems from a lack of public meetings. And the Democrat-Gazette reported that a group filed a complaint with the Pope County prosecutor alleging that some members of the Quorum Court violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
The casino decision – which was not a sure thing anyway because votes will have to approve the idea – will most likely be delayed following Gulfside Casino Partnership’s legal proceedings. The lawsuit will need to be resolved before the Racing Commission can issue any license.