The process to get a casino bid approved in Russellville, Arkansas, continues to be a difficult one for Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones and partner Cherokee Nation Businesses.
It was reported in August that Jerry Jones’ stadium management company, Legends Hospitality, and partner Cherokee Nation Businesses would likely get the nod to build their $225 million Legends Hotel and Casino Arkansas in Pope County.
Ever since the Pope County quorum court — which functions similar to a county commission, consisting of 13 justices of the peace — approved the new project, the process to choose a casino operator has been controversial and exhausting.
A total of three lawsuits have been filed against either Pope County or the Arkansas State Racing Commission. One of the claims comes from a competing bidder for the Pope project, Gulfside Casino Partnership.
Voters approved constitutional Amendment 100 last year to permit a total of four casinos in the state, making the would-be Pope County establishment the fourth and final casino in Arkansas. Part of the amendment’s stipulations is that a casino proposal must be backed by a letter of endorsement from a local official.
However, Pope voters rejected Amendment 100, passing an ordinance that states a special election must take place before county officials can support a proposal for a casino site.
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, five operators initially submitted applications for the Pope County project: Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi, Kehl Management of Iowa, Warner Gaming of Nevada, Choctaw Nation Division of Commerce of Oklahoma and Cherokee Nation Businesses of Oklahoma.
All five applicants were rejected last June because they failed to get endorsements from local officials. However, Gulfside’s proposal contained letters of endorsement from officials, but the commission considered it invalid since those officials no longer hold office. Officials who endorsed the Legends’ plan were accused of meeting behind closed doors before considering other offers, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Gulfside has since sued the racing commission, and a hearing is set for 9 a.m. on Nov. 25 at the Pulaski County Circuit Court in Little Rock.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock reported that two lawsuits were filed by the anti-casino group, Citizens for a Better Pope County, one against the county and the other against the racing commission.
The claims argue that the quorum court’s endorsement of Cherokee Nation Businesses conflicts with the Amendment 100 ordinance since no special election took place.
On Monday, Oct. 21, Pope County officials failed to repeal the ordinance, which would have invalidated the two Citizen lawsuits that has already cost the county $17,000. The hearing for the Citizen and Pope County casino lawsuits is scheduled for next week.
But the board tried again Oct. 28 and this time succeeded in overturning the 2018 ordinance, the Democrat Gazette reported.