Decision on Final Commercial Casino License in Arkansas Delayed by Temporary Restraining Order

Cherokee Nation Businesses and Legends’ proposed casino resort for Pope County, Arkansas — Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas.

A temporary restraining order has put the pending review of Cherokee Nation Business’ application to secure a gaming license for Pope County, Arkansas, on hold again. 

Pope County is slated to become the fourth county in Arkansas home to a commercial casino. But because the Arkansas Racing Commission opened a second 30-day window for applicants, thus violating its own rules, a Pulaski County circuit judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday that bars the commission from issuing a license for a casino in Pope County.

This marks the second occasion within two days that a circuit judge in Pulaski County determined that the commission should not have opened a second window for applications.

Friday’s decision came through a lawsuit by Citizens for a Better Pope County, an anti-gaming group, against the Arkansas Racing Commission. 

Now Monday’s planned meeting has been cancelled. Previous plans called for a decision on the Cherokee Nation Businesses’ application, and CNB was ready to deliver a formal presentation to the commission. 

Chuck Garrett, CEO for Cherokee Nation Businesses, expressed he was “disappointed by the recent turn of events and continued delay,” in a statement released Friday. 

Garrett noted in Friday’s statement: “As the only qualified applicant [in Pope County] pursuant to Amendment 100, our team was prepared to deliver a formal presentation on Monday per the invitation of the Arkansas State Racing Commission,” Garrett said. “We look forward to receiving that opportunity in the very near future and subsequently being awarded the casino gaming license.”

CNB announced in June that it teamed up with Legends, a joint venture founded in 2008 by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, on its proposed resort. CNB unveiled its plans for the $225 million Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas in Pope County in August. According to CNB’s projections, Legends Resort & Casino would make a total statewide economic impact in excess of $5 billion in the first 10 years.

CNB obtained three letters of support — from the city of Dover, the Pope County Quorum Court and the county judge — in support of its bid. The Choctaw Nation also previously released plans for its $290 million proposed casino for Pope County, but it did not submit any letter of support. 

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