The Cherokee Nation Labels the Arkansas Casino’s Legal Challenges As “Hail Marys”

The Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) has aspired to construct a high-end casino in Arkansas for almost five years. The Tribe's headquarters are in Oklahoma and it is almost getting full authorization from Arkansas for the Pope County casino. But its economic department labeled the ongoing legal challenges as "Hail Marys."

Chuck Garrette, the CNB's CEO, talked to some people in February 2022 at the Russellville Rotary Club, Arkansas. He believed that Arkansas would soon give the Cherokee Tribe full approval to construct Legends Resort & Casino in Russellville.

The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council summoned Garrett last week to update it about the business' operations. He stated that John Thurston's, the Arkansas Secretary of State, decision a few weeks ago to reject a state referendum killed the Tribe's dream to set up the gaming site soon.

Garrette added that Thurston intended to remove Pope County as the casino's host. This was another Tribe's aim to prevent the Cherokees from venturing into the Arkansas gaming market.

The state's voters supported a 2018 gaming referendum which allowed Garland, Crittenden, Jefferson, and Pope to have one casino resort. Reports state that the Cherokees Nation greatly funded the ballot. Its outcome allowed Garland and Crittenden's former racinos to transform into full-scale casinos offering sports gambling, table games, and slot machines.

Jefferson and Pope had two chances to launch new commercial casinos. Jefferson collaborated with the Quapaw Nation from Oklahoma.

Pope's local officials decided to hand over the county's gaming chance to the Cherokee Nation. Even so, ongoing legal battles have halted the CNB's plan to construct the $225 million Legend Resort & Casino.

This Isn't a Race

Garrette informed the tribal council that the CNB's aim to launch an Arkansan casino is on an endurance test. He stated that they have faced endless legal issues for four years and they have greatly tested their tenacity.

The Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) was initially in charge of granting four casino licenses. But it discovered that one of its members was biased while reviewing two Pope County license applications.

Butch Rice, ARC Commissioner, ranked the Gulfside plan 100/100 while evaluating the CNB's pitch in another bid from Gulfside Casino Partnership. Yet, he graded the pitch 29/100. The commissioner's score difference favored Gulfside in the overall ARC score.

The Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office officials had a legal deliberation for several months and they aided the ARC to determine if the Cherokee Nation rightfully won the Pope Casino's concession bid. Still, the legal controversy continued.

Arkansas gaming law requires casino bids to get the "county's judge's" endorsement before they qualify for submission. Ed Gibson, the county's judge in 2018 wrote a letter of support for Gulfside's plan. Even so, Ben Cross, the current Pope County Judge succeeded Gibson in 2019 and he supports the CNB scheme.

The Arkansas Supreme Court took up the issue and ruled in Cherokee's favor in November 2021. It stated that the current sitting judge is the "before county judge" rather than the "former county judge."

Construction Plans

The state's two racinos have been renovated to transform into full-scale casinos. Saracen Casino Resort, Jefferson's latest casino, alongside Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort and Southland Casino is running. Garrette is optimistic that the ongoing legal battles will end soon and the casino's construction will begin.


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.