Gulfside Casino Partnership has secured the Pope County casino license after today’s Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) meeting.
On Thursday, June 18, the commission heard presentations from both Gulfside and Cherokee Nations Businesses. Following the presentations, the commission scored both casinos with Gulfside receiving the higher score. According to reporting from Arkansas Times, the final scoring tally was 637-572 in favor of Gulfside.
Selecting a casino to receive the Pope County license has been a fraught issue that has spanned almost a one-and-a-half since the 2018 election in which an amendment was passed creating additional casino gaming in Arkansas. Under the amendment, Arkansas would expand casino gaming at Oaklawn and Southland casinos in Hot Springs and West Memphis, respectively. In addition, there would be two casino established in Jefferson and Pope counties.
Downstream Development Authority quickly locked up support for its casino in December 2018. Construction on the Jefferson County casino – called the Saracen Casino Resort – started in early August 2019.
In late December 2018, Gulfside submitted a letter of support from outgoing Pope County Judge Jim Ed Gibson as part of its application. The Mississippi-based company told the commission that it planned to build a three-phase, $250 million resort casino inn Pope County.
The Arkansas Racing Commission voted on the casino licenses in June 2019, approving the Downtown Development Authority for the Jefferson County casino license but rejecting all of the Pope County applications, which came from Gulfside Casino Partnership, Cherokee Nation Business, Choctaw Nation, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and Elite Casino Resorts.
Applications for the license reopened in August 2019 after the Pope County Quorum Court voted to endorse the Legends Resort and Casino, a $225 million project backed by Legends and the Cherokee Nation Businesses.
Subsequently, Gulfside filed a lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court, requesting that the court reverse the racing commission’s decision to deny its license application. Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox ruled in March 2020 that Gulfside was an eligible applicant and it had been unconstitutionally excluded from the Pope County casino license selection process.
Gulfside Casino Partnership’s casino is expected to be named River Valley Casino Resort. It will join Oaklawn, Southland and Saracen as the fourth casino in Arkansas.