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story.lead_photo.caption A full audience packs the meeting room where the Pope County Quorum Court holds a special meeting Tuesday evening to discuss granting a casino license. Many in the room are members of Pope County Majority, a group formed to advocate for building a casino there.

Amid allegations of secret meetings, the Pope County Quorum Court on Tuesday night endorsed a proposal by Cherokee Nation Businesses to place a casino and hotel complex just north of Interstate 40.

The Legends Resort and Casino beat four rivals in the race to have the endorsement of county officials. The decision was no surprise to observers, as two rivals said over the weekend they had been told who would win the endorsement.

Amendment 100, approved by voters in November 2018, allows a new casino each in Pope and Jefferson counties and allows the expansion of gambling at the racetracks in Hot Springs and West Memphis.

The amendment requires new casinos to have the backing of local officials, which looked unlikely in Pope County, where voters soundly rejected the amendment and also approved an initiated county ordinance that would require officials to seek voter approval before backing a proposal.

The county ordinance was not addressed in Tuesday night’s special meeting.

Allegations of secret meetings emerged Monday when citizens and a justice of the peace filed affidavits with the local prosecuting attorney saying some members of the Quorum Court met privately to discuss the casino issue. The prosecutor was asked to investigate whether these meetings violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

On Monday morning, the Cherokee Nation Businesses unveiled an updated proposal featuring renderings of a $225 million resort that would include 50,000 square feet of gambling with 1,200 slot machines and 32 table games as well as sports betting.

The resort also would feature a 200-room luxury hotel, a 15,000-square-foot meeting and conference center, a resort pool, an outdoor music venue, a recreational vehicle and dog park, and an outdoor water park.

The project would be completed in one phase within 18 months and would create about 1,000 direct jobs, according to the statement.

See Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for the full story.


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Archived Comments

  • LRDawg
    August 13, 2019 at 8:32 p.m.


  • DANNY46
    August 13, 2019 at 8:41 p.m.

    Some one got paid off. The money got to some one!!!!

  • RBBrittain
    August 13, 2019 at 8:46 p.m.

    Actually, the county attorney addressed the ordinance; he gave his opinion that it was unconstitutional (as I've been saying all along), and that there was no way legally for the county to refer the issue to voters (I disagree with that but it doesn't change the outcome). There were also strong implications that if they didn't endorse someone tonight, the Racing Commission would award the license to Gulfside on Thursday. No mention was made of my suggestion that the Cherokee might have built anyway under IGRA. I still think they should have repealed the ordinance by 2/3rds majority just to be safe, but the vote on the final resolution (8 for, 4 against, 1 abstain) suggests there weren't enough votes for a repeal. Casino opponents sued the county judge & Quorum Court earlier today in an attempt to block the meeting or overturn the result, so it looks like the courts will ultimately decide.

  • hurricane46
    August 13, 2019 at 9:21 p.m.

    Aren't there enough Indian casinos across the state line in OK?, Pope county could have had a nice one from the people from MS or the Hard Rock. Instead they choose one that has a casino 89 miles down I-40, and a lot of that money will go to OK.

  • reality1963
    August 13, 2019 at 9:22 p.m.

    Glad to see Arbilla come to it’s senses!

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    August 13, 2019 at 9:22 p.m.

    I'm impressed with your Constitutional zeal Mr.Brittain
    Thanks for keeping us informed.

  • DeeBeeCooper
    August 14, 2019 at 7:03 a.m.

    What was the vote and by JP? Nice to see another reader attendee provide some of the info but sure would like to see that in the original reporting.