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Cherokee Nation Businesses submit Pope County casino license application

by Jeannie Roberts | August 22, 2019 at 4:03 p.m.
FILE — A roulette wheel spins at Cherokee Casino & Hotel in West Siloam Springs, Okla.

The Cherokee Nation Businesses submitted an application for a casino license in Pope County on Thursday morning, three days after the state Racing Commission opened a 90-day window for accepting new bids.

Also Thursday, a Pulaski County circuit judge ruled that a lawsuit filed by a rejected casino license applicant against the Racing Commission should be heard instead in Pope County Circuit Court.

The Cherokee application includes an endorsement from the Pope County Quorum Court that was signed last week after a special-called meeting.

“Today, we submitted our application to the Arkansas State Racing Commission to build Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas. We are pleased to have the full endorsement and support of the Pope County Quorum Court," Chuck Garrett, chief executive officer of Cherokee Nation Businesses, said in an email. "We are wholly committed to the community and look forward to receiving the license.”

The reopened window comes after five applicants — including Cherokee Nation Businesses — for the Pope County casino license were rejected by the Racing Commission because they did not include the endorsement of local officials as required by Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution.

In the court case, Gulfside Casino Partnership sued the Racing Commission last week after the commission tossed out the company's appeal. The Gulfside application included letters of endorsement issued by previous Pope County and Russellville officials just before they left office in December.

While Amendment 100, approved by voters in November, does not say when the endorsements must be issued, a rule passed earlier this year by the Racing Commission requires the letters of support come only from local officials in office at the time of the application submission.

Gulfside contends in the lawsuit that the commission's rule is unconstitutional.

On Thursday afternoon, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ordered that the case be heard in Pope County Circuit Court.

"It is patently clear from the Verified Complaint that the citizens, residents, and taxpayers of Pope County have a substantial interest in this matter being conducted in Pope County," Fox said in the order.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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