Arkansas Supreme Court Reconfirms a Lower Court’s Decision on Pope County Casino License

In 2018, Arkansas legalized a casino in the counties of Pope, Jefferson, Garland, and Crittenden through a ballot vote by residents. This led to the bidding of a casino license in Pope by Cherokee Nation Businesses and Legends Hospitality and another bidder. Cherokee won the license.

Unfortunately, their win was not constitutional. According to the Amendment of the 2018 referendum, a casino license bid is supposed to come from a sole entity. Meanwhile, Cherokee Nation Businesses and Legends Hospitality is a consortium.

Cherokee Nation Businesses is part of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. It is a commercial gaming and hospitality unit. Meanwhile, Legends is a stadium franchise provider partially controlled by Jerry Jones, an Arkansas native.

Apart from that, Legends does not meet the qualifications for running a casino. According to Amendment 100, a casino license applicant should have experience running a gambling establishment. Unfortunately, Legends has no prior experience owning, developing, or running a casino.

This led to filing of a case at Pulaski County Circuit against Arkansas Racing Commission's decision to award the Pope Casino license to Cherokee and Legends. Judge Tim Fox ruled against Cherokee and Legends in January 2023.

As expected, the new casino owners were not comfortable with the ruling. They appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Unfortunately for Cherokee and Legends, the Supreme Court also agreed with the lower court's judge, Fox.

Cherokee/Legends and Gulfside Casino Submit Opinions

Gulfside Casino Partnership is a Mississippi-based riverboat operator. The company was the other entity that bid for the Pope Casino license but lost to Cherokee/Legends. Following the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling, the Arkansas Racing Commission asked Cherokee/Legends and Gulfside Casino to submit suggestions on how the gaming commission should proceed.

Cherokees/Legends wrote their opinion to the Arkansas Racing Commission, hoping the Supreme Court would provide clarification. According to one of the attorneys representing Cherokees/Legends, the Supreme Court was unclear about the steps the casino license bidders should take.

Instead, the court focused on the issue of the casino bidder having two names on the license. The court did not rule on whether Legends was a qualified applicant.

Dustin McDaniel, former Arkansas Attorney General, said the court left an administrative fix room for Cherokees/Legends. In other words, the two could resubmit their bid using one name.

Meanwhile, Gulfside Casino wants the Arkansas Racing Commission to open the bidding process again. This will give the two bidders and possibly more to bid for the Pope Casino license.

Support From a County Judge or County Quorum Court

Amendment 100 requires casino license bidders to have support from a judge in a county court or support from the county quorum court. Gulfside Casino got its support letter from Ed Gibson in December 2018. The judge later exited Pope County.

Referring to this language misunderstanding, Gulfside Casino attorneys want the Arkansas Racing Commission to repeat the bidding process. This will allow Pope Casino bidders to apply for letters of support from the current court, judges, and the racing commission to reconsider the best presentation.


A sports enthusiast, Ryan helps cover sports betting news from around the country, highlighting some of the more interesting events going on in the USA.