Litigious likelihood for Arkansas casino license race


In the southern American state of Arkansas and a lengthy legal battle now looks likely after local regulators selected an entity known as Gulfside Casino Partnership to build and operate the proposed casino for Pope County.

According to a Thursday report from the Arkansas Times newspaper, the decision came at the expense of the federally-recognized Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, which had testified that it would not need any outside sponsorship in order to pay for its envisioned $250 million casino-friendly facility.

Funding failure:

Nevertheless, the Arkansas Racing Commission reportedly opted by a four-to-three vote for a plan from Gulfside Casino Partnership despite the fact that this enterprise will likely require approximately $200 million in external financing. The newspaper detailed that this judgement immediately prompted the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, which already operates some ten casinos in its home state, to declare that it intends to file for an injunction that will prevent any work on the proposed development from starting.

Contentious claims:

Dustin McDaniel, legal representative for the tribe’s casino-operating Cherokee Nation Businesses enterprise, reportedly told the Arkansas Times that he had pre-empted yesterday’s ruling by sending a letter to Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge expressing concerns ‘that an obviously biased commissioner’ in addition to the use of a points-based ‘scoring system’ could taint the selection process.

Controversial count:

Despite this warning, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma reportedly contends that Butch Rice from the Arkansas Racing Commission gave its Pope County casino proposal an aggregate score of only 29 out of 100, which was 50 points lower than any of his compatriots. The newspaper reported that this tally was additionally 44 points less than any score received by Gulfside Casino Partnership and had opened up a 71-point gap that effectively handed the casino license to the Mississippi-based firm.

McDaniel reportedly declared…

“Despite the office of the Arkansas Attorney General expressly warning commissioners not to engage in arbitrary, capricious or biased scoring, commissioner Rice in fact single-handedly overturned the score given by the rest of the Arkansas Racing Commission. We anticipate both an administrative appeal and a request for injunctive relief from a court. This is a uniquely significant state decision and such an egregious act of bad faith should not be allowed to control it.”

Quadruple option:

The newspaper reported that the idea of bringing such a facility to Pope County was made possible in November of 2018 after voters narrowly passed an enabling statewide constitutional amendment to legalize up to four casinos. This result has already resulted in Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in the city of Hot Springs as well as West Memphis’ Southland Park Gaming and Racing being transformed into fully-fledged casinos while Oklahoma’s Quapaw Nation is currently in the process of constructing the $350 million first phase of what is to eventually become its Saracen Resort Casino in rural Jefferson County.