Casino Giants’ Battle for Arkansas Gaming Resort Heats Up Ahead of June Deadline


Deep in the heart of Arkansas, the simmering contest to establish a commercial casino in Pope County has spiraled into a zealous pursuit by Gulfside Casino Partnership – an entity steered by two stalwarts of riverboat gaming in the Mississippi Delta, Terry Green and Rick Carter. For years, this Mississippi-based establishment has been banking on its vision of a grand resort, luxurious in its offerings with the allure of gaming galore and more. But, in the world of casinos, the house always has an advantage and in this case, the Cherokee Nation Businesses, an Oklahoma-based arm of the Cherokee Tribe, is holding the upper hand.

Gulfside recently advanced their long-standing proposal to see their dreams materialized in the form of the River Valley Casino Resort in Russellville. Anchoring its $405 million pitch is a sprawling 70,000 square-foot casino housing an impressive 1,500 slot machines and 50 live dealer tables. Other key elements to this indulgent proposal include a sportsbook, a 300-room hotel, copious convention spaces, an array of restaurants and bars, an open-air amphitheater, and a high-end spa and fitness center.

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Not to be overshadowed, the Cherokee Nation Businesses unveiled their masterplan for the Legends Resort & Casino, valued at $300 million. Located in the same vicinity, their resort boasts a 50,000 square foot gaming floor, replete with 1,200 slot machines and 32 live dealer tables. A hotel with 200 rooms complemented by multiple dining experiences and bars, as well as sports betting facilities, underlines the competitive spirit between the potential casino behemoths.

However, nestled in a clause of a 2018 referendum, which sanctioned commercial casino gambling in four specific Arkansas counties, is a requirement that any casino bid must be supplemented by a letter of support from the relevant county’s standing judge or quorum court. Despite promising an initial $65 million payment to the county, along with a $2 million dollar annual pledge for economic development purposes, Gulfside remains without an endorsement. The Cherokee proposal, meanwhile, holds the necessary approval of County Judge Ben Cross, who last year supported their vision along with other members of the Pope County Quorum Court.

Though the process has required patience, Gulfside is not ready to fold just yet. Focused and with an unwavering faith, they appear ready to take their fight right to the doors of the 13-member panel of county quorum court. A minimum of seven court nods is all they need for their bid to be reconsidered by the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC).

Cross, for his part, has not minced his words when it comes to where his loyalties lie; he blatantly stated he will not support Gulfside and anticipates no shift from his stance that the Cherokee plan is ideally suitable. Yet, attorneys representing Gulfside argue that their vision for River Valley is richer and superior to any previously presented. Time waits for no man, and as the clock ticks down to the June 11 deadline, Gulfside has everything to gain and just as much to lose. Will it secure the support it so zealously seeks, or will fortune favor the Cherokee Nation? Arkansas waits with bated breath.