Arkansas court annuls Cherokee Nation’s casino license

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A court in Arkansas has reversed the state Racing Commission’s decision to offer Cherokee Nation Business’s casino license in the state.

Pulaski County Judge Tim Fox ruled that the casino license offered to Cherokee Nation Businesses and its subsidiary firm Legends Resort and Casino was invalid and was against the state of Arkansas’ constitution. 

Cherokee Nation Businesses and Legends set out proposals to build a ‘first-of-its-kind’ resort destination in Pope County branded as Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas. It was set to be the fourth casino to open in Arkansas under the provisions of the act voted for by the public back in 2018. 

A $225m project, the casino was said to have 50,000 square feet of gaming space featuring a sportsbook, 1,200 slot machines and 32 table games.

Whilst casinos have opened in three other locations across Arkansas, the Pope County location has caused significant issues, with Cherokee being the second proposed licensee to have its approval revoked.

Initially, the company was offered a license from the Arkansas Racing Commission in late 2021, however, a lawsuit was filed by Gulfside Casino Partnership, which also had a casino license annulled after receiving approval in 2020. 

Judge Fox ruled that Cherokee and Legends’ license was against the constitution of Arkansas, as the Racing Commission did not have the authority to authorize a license to the business.

Despite the ruling, Cherokee Nation made it abundantly clear that it would appeal the decision. CEO Chuck Garret told Fox News that it is ‘confident’ in its position. 

“While the circuit court’s ruling is disappointing, in the interest of forward progress, we are pleased to have a decision,” Garrett noted, courtesy of Fox News. “We remain confident in our legal position and will move quickly to have our appeal heard by the Arkansas Supreme Court.”

Announcing the casino project back in 2019, Cherokee Nation stated that the casino construction would take 18 months and would contribute over $5bn to the local economy within 10 years, employing over 1000 people. 

However, after successfully filing its lawsuit, Gulfside Casino Partnership is still looking forward to proceeding with its own resort in Pope County as it seeks to secure the fourth license. 

Lucas Rowan, an attorney for Gulfside, noted via Fox News: “Gulfside remains committed to building a first-class entertainment destination in Pope County and bringing good-paying jobs and economic development to Arkansas, and this ruling that Legends was not qualified is a step in that direction.”