The Cherokee Nation Businesses is poised to usher in an era of luxury gaming and hospitality with the endorsement of its $300 million Legends Resort & Casino, slated to rise in Russellville, Arkansas. This major development initiative has received the backing of key judicial figures in Pope County, marking a significant milestone in the journey towards realizing this ambitious project.
Pope County, alongside Jefferson County, was designated for new commercial land-based casinos through an Arkansas ballot referendum in 2018. This pivotal vote not only paved the way for casinos in these locales but also sanctioned the transformation of existing racinos in Crittenden and Garland Counties into fully-fledged casinos, complete with a variety of gaming options.
To ensure a rigorous and fair selection process for these foundational gaming developments, the local government mandated that only casino proposals endorsed by a letter of support from the county’s seated judge or the quorum court would be considered by the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC). This provision soon became a complicating factor for ARC when evaluating the proposed casino in Pope County.
CNB, representing the commercial interests of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, has diversified its portfolio, encompassing not only gaming and hospitality ventures but also federal government contracts, infrastructure initiatives, and expansive real estate undertakings.
With the support of Pope County Judge Ben Cross, CNB’s Legends Resort & Casino proposal emerged as a key player in the competitive bidding process. A rival bid, the $254 million River Valley Casino Resort, also sought to capture this opportunity, with Gulfside Casino Partnership, a Mississippi-based gaming entity, presenting their plan accentuated by the endorsement of the then-outgoing Pope County Judge Ed Gibson.
The path to this pivotal moment has not been smooth. The project has navigated through a mire of legal wrangles, including a scandal that brought to light a potential bias by an Arkansas racing commissioner in evaluating the casino bids. Despite this setback, which temporarily awarded Gulfside the casino license, the Cherokee Nation successfully challenged the decision, arguing that the Gulfside proposal was illegitimate due to a lack of real-time judicial support.
Escalating to the Arkansas Supreme Court, the legal battle centered on whether ARC had misjudged in considering Gulfside’s candidacy, given the absence of endorsement from a seated county authority. The Supreme Court ultimately held that ARC had erred. The commission later reversed their decision, favoring the Cherokee proposal. Still, this did not mark the end of the legal tussles – Gulfside’s attorneys raised further objections concerning the bid’s compliance with the 2018 referendum, particularly with respect to company structure and gaming experience.
Despite these ongoing legal challenges, clarity seems to be on the horizon for the casino project. Pope County officials, aware of the economic uplift casinos have imparted in other counties, are leaning towards the fruition of the CNB casino bid. This week’s 7-6 vote by the Pope County Quorum Court in favor of CNB, bolstered by Judge Ben Cross, places the Cherokee proposal in a favorable position. The ARC is expected to renew its considerations for Pope County casino bids soon.
Chuck Garrett, CNB’s CEO, expressed readiness for the upcoming opportunities, highlighting the preparedness of CNB with the necessary land, planning, and groundwork already in place. In anticipation of meeting the legal criteria, the Cherokees are considering a bid that circumvents past concerns over the joint entity stipulation.
While the unfolding of this grand casino development in Arkansas has had its fair share of twists and turns, it emphasizes the continuous evolution and interest in the gaming industry. It’s a reminder that for enthusiasts unable to access the vibrant floors of land-based casinos, the digital world offers a plethora of gaming opportunities. At [West Island Blog](https://www.westislandblog.com/online-casinos/), we present a curated selection of the top online casinos for this month, ensuring that our readers have access to the best virtual gaming experiences available. Whether it’s from the comfort of your home or on the go, we invite you to explore the thrill of online casinos and discover your next favorite game.