Arkansas Casino Lawsuit Alleges State Commission Awarded License To Entity That Doesn’t Exist

Written By Derek Helling on December 11, 2021

If you’ve been following the storylines around a potential casino in Pope County, Arkansas, you’ve probably already gone through several bowls of perhaps figurative popcorn watching the drama. Well, keep the kernels popping, folks. A new Arkansas casino lawsuit could keep the theater going for months.

This complaint in a state court asks for an injunction blocking the casino’s new license holder’s progress on a new facility. Among its reasons for the court to take such action are that the entity that received the license doesn’t actually exist.

What’s the deal with the new Arkansas casino lawsuit?

John Goodin, who belongs to the anti-gambling group Citizens for a Better Pope County, filed the suit in Pulaski County earlier this week. The lawsuit doesn’t seek a permanent ban of casinos in Pope Co.

Rather, it asks the court to block any progress until the state can clear up issues the complaint points out with the license. Currently, the name on the license is Cherokee Nation Businesses, LLC/Legends Resort and Casino, LLC. Counsel for the plaintiff, Jerry Malone, verbalized one of the chief issues.

“There is no such entity,” Malone stated. “We researched the Secretary of State’s office and there is no listing for this company.”

Additionally, the suit argues that Legends Resort and Casino has no “experience” in gambling. The 2018 amendment to the state Constitution that allowed for casinos and racetracks in the state requires such experience to receive a gaming license.

For that reason, the suit calls the license award unconstitutional and Legends unqualified to receive such a license. If courts ultimately decide that is the case, it will be quite ironic. A similar ruling gave Legends the license in the first place.

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The winding road to this point

This challenge to Legends’ license comes just weeks after the state’s high court effectively ruled in its favor. In late October, the AR Supreme Court ruled that required letters of support for the license’s former holder, the Gulfside Casino Partnership, were invalid because the city and county officials no longer held the appropriate offices when the license was approved.

As Gulfside became ineligible, the Legends bid became the top qualifier. The AR Racing Commission awarded Legends the license on Nov. 21 after consulting with the state attorney general’s office.

That isn’t the sum total of this scene, though. After failing to force a local vote just in Pope County to bar a casino, a petition effort for a new AR constitution amendment that would exclude Pope County from the state’s casino law is going around.

If successful, voters statewide would see another casino ballot measure in 2022. It would essentially carve Pope Co. out from the rest of the state along those lines. As the 2018 initiative passed 54%-45%, those prospects might not be great even if the issue does make the ballot.

If potential license holders continue to become ineligible via court rulings, the point of the petition might be moot. As has been the case for months, everyone is waiting to see what state courts do on this matter next.

Photo by Atstock Productions / Shutterstock
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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