The Arkansas Supreme Court issued a highly anticipated decision on an appeal pertaining to the Pope County casino license on Thursday morning. The Court ruled in favor of Cherokee Nation Businesses in their case against Gulfside Casino Partnership. The state’s high court reversed decisions by Circuit Judge Tim Fox, which had previously secured Gulfside to receive Pope County’s lone casino license. After this ruling, Cherokee Nation Businesses is now the only qualified applicant.
“Today’s ruling is exciting and greatly appreciated. I know CNB is ready to put an end to litigation and start building. We anticipate CNB’s license will be issued as soon as the mandate is effective, and we will work quickly to bring final resolution to any remaining lawsuits. Once the last legal hurdles are cleared, CNB will deliver the $38.8 million check committed in the Economic Development Agreement with Pope County and commence construction,” Dustin McDaniel, legal counsel for Cherokee Nation Businesses stated.
Because the application window had not yet opened at the time Gulfside received its letter from outgoing Pope County Judge Jim Ed Gibson, the court ruled the letter null and void, nullifying the license awarded to Gulfside by the Arkansas Racing Commission. “Accordingly, we hold that the plain language of Amendment 100, passed by the people of Arkansas stating “the county judge” means the county judge in office at the time the “casino applicant” submitted its application to the ARC,” the majority opinion said. “Although Gulfside argues the Amendment does not require that the letter of support come from the county judge in office at the time of the submission as the Rule and the Act require, we reject Gulfside’s interpretation of Amendment 100.”
CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses, Chuck Garrett said, “CNB appreciates the Supreme Court’s decision on this important matter. We want to thank Pope County Judge Ben Cross and the community at large for their faith and unwavering support. Our team is extremely excited to deliver the world-class Legends Resort & Casino and bring jobs and economic growth to the River Valley. We also look forward to delivering on the $38.8M Economic Development Agreement executed with Pope County, which will allow communities to invest in police, fire and other infrastructure projects while the casino resort is under construction. It is our sincere promise to replicate the success we have achieved in other markets by working cooperatively with state and local officials to make our project a success on day one.”
Casey Castleberry, counsel for Gulfside Casino Partnership, issued the following statement:
“We are disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision, but this isn’t the end of the road. We remain committed to building a first-class entertainment destination in Pope County and bringing good-paying jobs and economic development to the state.”