To Top

Arkansas Racing Commission Awards Cherokee Nation License To Build State’s Fourth Casino

Arkansas Racing Commission has awarded the fourth and final casino license to Cherokee Nation Entertainment to build a casino in the state.

Arkansas Flag Hangs In Little Rock
Photo by AP Photo/Ric Feld
Katarina Vojvodic Avatar
3 mins read

The Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) awarded Cherokee Nation Entertainment (CNE) a license to build a casino in the state. The license has been the source of multiple lawsuits that have prolonged casino construction for years.

On June 27, after the ARC interviewed Cherokee representatives and reviewed their full application, the panel voted unanimously to issue the license for the casino in Pope County. It’s the final casino allowed under a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2018.

A spokesman for the ARC, Scott Hardin, told PlayUSA:

“The Commission scored the application 651 out of a possible 700 points at yesterday’s meeting. In addition, gaming consultant Jim Fox told commissioners he would give the application a nine out of 10.”

Following scoring, the ARC formally voted to award the license to CNE. Hardin added, “The Racing Commission is pleased to complete the process and issue the license as required by Amendment 100. The Commission will receive updates on progress from CNE.

“The company projects the timeline from start to finish to be 18 months.”

Key takeaways

  • Arkansans approved casino gaming in November 2018 (now Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution). It allowed for a total of four Arkansas casinos.
  • Three casinos received licenses and have been in operation for several years. The remaining one, Pope County, has been held up for several years by ongoing legal fights. However, CNE’s application received the required support from local leaders in this application period.
  • Gulfside Casino Partnership initially received the Pope County license but lost it in a legal dispute with the Cherokee Nation.
  • There are no online casinos in Arkansas, but owners of retail casinos are interested in offering it and have recently vocalized their interest to the ARC.

CNE gets closer to finalizing an Arkansas casino in Pope County

Cherokee Nation Entertainment revealed plans to build a 50,000-square-foot casino northeast of Russellville and northwest of Little Rock. A 50,000-square-foot facility will include 1,200 slot machines, 32 table games, a poker room and a sportsbook.

CNE’s plan also consists of:

  • A 200-room hotel
  • A conference center
  • Outdoor music venue

The project would include a water park, RV and dog park.

According to the Associated Press article, CEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment Chuck Garrett said in a statement: “With the license in hand, we are prepared to finalize the remaining permitting and administrative processes so we can commence construction.”

The casino project is expected to be finalized in the next 18 months.

CNE’s application was the only one considered by the ARC

The casino’s application process was reopened in 2023 when the state Supreme Court sustained a judge’s ruling voiding the license, which had previously been awarded to Cherokee Nation.

Both CNE and Gulfside Casino Partnership submitted proposals before the June 11 deadline. However, the Cherokee Nation’s application was the only one considered by the Commission.

Earlier this month, the panel ruled that a competing proposal was incomplete. As Hardin told PlayUSA, “It [Gulfside Casino Partnership] did not proceed to review as it lacked the required letter or ordinance of support from local leaders.”

The planned casino could still face resistance from a group backed by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. They are trying to put a measure on the November ballot that could lead to removing the Pope County license.

To accomplish that, the group has until July 5 to submit petitions to the state and have at least 90,704 signatures from voters.

Katarina Vojvodic Avatar
Written by

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

View all posts by Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

Privacy Policy