Nine months after Arkansas voted to expand casino gambling in the Natural State, Pope County has approved a casino proposal. The Pope County Quorum Court voted on Tuesday night (Aug. 13) to endorse the Legends Resort and Casino, a $225 million project backed by Cherokee Nation Businesses and Legends, for the Pope County casino license
Cherokee Nation Businesses received the quorum court’s approval after being turned down for a casino license in June. During the meeting last night, nine quorum court commissioners voted in favor of the Legends Resort and Casino while four voted against and one abstained.
Legends released the designs and specifications for the proposed casino on Monday. The proposed casino, which is set to be located off I-40 near Russellville, will feature 50,000 square feet of gambling space with 1,200 slot machines and 32 gambling tables, along with multiple dining options and entertainment venues. There will also be a luxury 200-room hotel, an RV park and outdoor water park.
Cherokee Nation Businesses beat out four competitors for the project approval. The four other organizations include Gulfside Casino Partnership, Choctaw Nation, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Elite Casino Resorts.
In order to qualify for a casino license, the applicants are required to have a letter of support from the county judge or a quorum court resolution. In the event that the casino was to be located within a city’s limits, the casino applicants would be required to submit a letter of support from that city’s mayor.
The approval is not without controversy. In recent days, there have been allegations that Pope County Quorum Court members had met in private to discuss matters related to the casino proposals. In addition, some outlets have reported that other casino operators had said they already knew that Legends would get the vote.
Approving the casino is a turn-around for the county, which overwhelmingly voted down Issue 4 in the November elections. The county voted against the measure 60 to 40. In addition, county voters passed an ordinance requiring an election to place a casino.
In an earlier interview with AMP, Pope County Judge Ben Cross said that while he was not against the casinos, he would “maintain of the will of the voters,” which he said was to not have the casino.
“I have no personal stance on this other than to maintain the will of the voters,” he said. “If some mechanism is devised so that there is another vote and it goes in the other direction, then I will uphold the will of those voters as well.”
The Arkansas Racing Commission will ultimately award the casino license. The commission chooses to award the license based on minimum qualifications, such as demonstrated experience in casino operations, the letter of support, background checks and a completed application, as well as the organization’s building timeline, financial stability and other factors.
The commission is required to inform the companies whether the license has been awarded or not within 30 business days from when the application process has concluded.
Cross declined to comment for the article pending litigation with Citizens for a Better Pope County. AMP has reached out to the group and will update when we receive a response.