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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — A roulette wheel spins at Cherokee Casino & Hotel in West Siloam Springs, Okla.

A Las Vegas casino operator said Saturday morning they were notified that Pope County officials would endorse another group for the casino license there when the Pope County Quorum Court meets Tuesday.

In a letter to Ben Cross, county judge of Pope County, obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and dated Saturday, Warner Gaming CEO Bill Warner said they were told that the endorsement would go to the Cherokee Nation Businesses of Catoosa, Okla.

Messages left for Cross on two cellphone numbers were not immediately returned. Also, messages left for Amanda Clinton of Cherokee Nation Businesses were not immediately returned.

Warner released a public statement early Saturday saying that "Remarkably we were asked if we could submit our final offer after we were informed that a different operator will be selected."


Warner Gaming letter to Ben Cross, county judge of Pope County


In the direct letter to Cross, Warner tells the county judge "Since you informed us on Friday that the Quorum Court has already decided to support the Cherokee proposal and no others, we do not feel that it makes sense for us to submit an updated proposal at this time."

Of the 13 Pope County justices of the peace, only Justice of the Peace Jamie Jackson responded early Saturday to requests for comment from an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter.

Jackson said he was not privy to any information that the Cherokee Nation Businesses had been selected, but said that all five of the proposals would be reviewed at a special-called meeting on Tuesday and that a decision will be made then on which company would be awarded the endorsement.


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Archived Comments

  • wowy
    August 10, 2019 at 9 p.m.

    I’m Indian ! ! !

  • RBBrittain
    August 10, 2019 at 10:41 p.m.

    Reportedly the final Cherokee proposal, with Jerry Jones' Legends hospitality company involved, will be publicly unveiled Monday; countdown billboards are already up in Russellville. It remains to be seen if the Quorum Court will repeal the 2018 ordinance and approve an operator on Tuesday (IMO the cleanest option legally but NOT politically), refer one or more operators to the voters (likely with an amendment to the 2018 ordinance making its majority language consistent with the Arkansas Constitution's mandate that it pass with a majority of the votes cast, NOT a majority of registered voters as it currently reads) or whatever.
    The Racing Commission is also set to meet on Thursday to hear the appeal from Gulfside that its prior application with 2018-dated letters from the then-current Pope County judge & Russellville mayor should have been granted. Though as I've said before I believe the 2018 ordinance violates Amendment 100, I also believe the revised Racing Commission rule *and* 2019 act requiring the letters to be from CURRENT (i.e., 2019) officials are allowed under Amendment 100; thus Gulfside's application was incomplete under the rules and the appeal should be denied. Depending on what happens Tuesday, the commission could then proceed to reopen the application period for Pope County.
    Wowy (or should it be Loony?), if the Cherokee get the OK from the Quorum Court they will be legally just like the Quapaw in Pine Bluff: Though the casino will be owned by a Native American tribe, it will NOT legally be an "Indian casino", i.e., set up on Federal trust land (aka "reservation land") under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). As a full-fledged casino under Amendment 100, Cherokee Legends will pay the SAME casino & property taxes as Oaklawn, Southland & Saracen. (It may not pay income taxes as a tribe, but that's based on NET income, NOT gross casino revenue or casino property value.) As I've also said before, the Cherokee could also go the IGRA route in Russellville or nearby communities (Johnson County has been the most discussed publicly); I suspect that will be their "trump card" (NO pun intended) if they don't get the Amendment 100 license. The Cherokee's first choice would be Amendment 100; despite the additional taxes that would assure no competition closer than Oaklawn, or counting just I-40 their own casino in Roland, Okla. (until recently the epitome of the "truck-stop casino" story apparently used to sell the 2018 ordinance, apparently the work of anti-casino forces).

  • RBBrittain
    August 10, 2019 at 10:56 p.m.

    A point of clarification: Regardless of the 2018 ordinance's validity, as a county initiative it can be amended or repealed by 2/3rds of the Quorum Court. Once that happens, the Quorum Court can then proceed to approve an operator or let the county judge approve one (cleaner legally but politically risky, especially if they pick Cherokee Legends despite public sentiment reportedly leaning towards Hard Rock/Warner), or put one or more proposals on the ballot in March 2020 (less risky politically). Of course, Cherokee Legends could also make the Quorum Court a Don Corleone-like offer: Give us the Amendment 100 license now (instead of Warner, Gulfside and/or an election) or we'll open as an IGRA casino in Johnson County.

  • SwineFusion
    August 11, 2019 at 1:02 a.m.

    I've never seen an explanation of why Pope County was included in the Amendment 100 casino proposal when it doesn't seem that its residents really want a casino.

    I've been to the Cherokee Casino in Roland. It's far from a "truck stop casino", and includes a pretty nice hotel.