The Arkansas Supreme Court instructed the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) to repeat Cherokee Nation’s license application process on October 26,2023. The process involved Gulfside Casino Partnership and Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB). A TBP report shows that Pope County Judge Ben Cross reviewed the gaming amendment and endorsed CNB in the license process.
Judge Cross’ Endorsement Letter
Judge Cross wrote an endorsement letter for the Cherokee, offering it an edge over its rivals as the ARC reviews its gaming license application. Nevertheless, this was a split decision since the Arkansas Supreme Court previously affirmed Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox’s ruling that the ARC illegally approved CNB’s gaming permit in Pope County.
Judge Fox made it after the Gulfside Casino Partnership appealed the Racing Commission’s move to issue CNB’s Legends Resort and Casino license. Judge Cross said that Amendment 100 to Cherokee Nation Businesses required him to write an exclusive letter after realizing that the Arkansas Supreme Court had made a split decision. But, CNB was referred to as Cherokee Nation Entertainment and the Court solved pending technical issues.
The Judge submitted his letter to ARC on October 26,2023 as the statute highlights and he believes that the Commission will hasten the license application process and offer relief to Pope County residents. Voters passed Amendment 100 in 2018 requiring all gaming license applicants to seek a letter of support from Russellville Mayor Fred Teague for sites within the city and another letter from the Pope County Quorum Court or Judge Cross.
His Support Motivates the CNB
Chuck Garrett, CNB’s CEO stated that Judge Cross’ support inspires them to continue seeking a Pope County gaming license. He said that they will continue following the Arkansas Attorney General and ARC’s advice as they implement Amendment 100. They are determined to construct Legends Resort & Casino to offer jobs in Russellville and increase the state’s tax revenue.
Gulfside Casino Partnership’s Attorney, Case Castleberry said that they will convince the Quorum Court’s members to back Gulfside’s proposal as it will benefit Arkansas, Pope County and Russellville. They made a similar move in their 2020 presentation to ARC.
Are There Other Casino Proposals?
Reports indicate that the Cherokee Nation intends to spend $225 million in its gaming project. It will constitute 50,000 square feet for gaming, a retail sports gambling venue, 32 table games, 1,200 slot machines and a 200-room cozy hotel with conference facilities, entertainment and leisure.
The hotel will have a more than 15,000 square feet floor space and can accommodate 1,000 guests. Even so, the gaming property will have a concert venue and outdoor water park.
Gulfside plans to spend $254 million on its project. It will include 80,000 square feet for gaming, various outdoor entertainment and dining choices and a 500-room hotel. Moreover, the casino will offer 1,500 jobs.