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Arkansas Commission Might Accept Pope County Casino License Applications In May

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on March 18, 2024
Sign Reads Soon Accepting Applications

Following a series of delays, the Arkansas Racing Commission approved proposed revisions of its rules to start accepting new applications for the state’s fourth and final casino in Pope County.

According to a report from the Arkansas Advocate, the commission intends to initiate the process as early as May, pending legislative approval. The commission approved a set of rules on March 11 to govern a new 30-day application process for operators to apply for the much-delayed Pope County casino license.

Those rules must first be approved by the Arkansas legislature, which could happen in April. That would set up an application window that could open in May and more assuredly before summer begins, Deputy Attorney General Doralee Chandler told commissioners.

Third time could be the charm for the Arkansas casino in Pope County

This is the commission’s third attempt to issue a casino license in Pope County. Initially, it was one of four areas where casinos were permitted to be built under a constitutional amendment approved by the state’s voters in 2018.

However, the courts have voided two previous versions of licenses issued in 2021 to Gulfside Casino Partnership and Cherokee Nation Business/Legends Resort & Casino. The process has been on pause since then.

The licensing process has seen five years of legal battles and bureaucratic issues as the residents were against having the casino in their county. Meanwhile, multiple potential casino operators have been interested in the license.

Chairman Alex Lieblong expressed relief at the potential conclusion of the protracted litigation saga, acknowledging the weariness accumulated over years of legal wrangling. As per the news article by the Arkansas Advocate, Lieblong said at a recent meeting: “We’ve been through enough litigation to last us a lifetime.”

2018 ballot initiative sanctioned the establishment of four casinos in Arkansas

As mentioned, the Arkansas Casino Gaming Amendment of 2018 paved the way for Arkansas voters to allow four full-fledged casinos in the state.

The first two Arkansas casinos were written into the amendment:

  1. The existing racetracks in West Memphis (Southland)
  2. Hot Springs (Oaklawn)

The third permit was issued to Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff, in Jefferson County, thanks to local support for the Quapaw Nation.

The issues started to occur when it was time for the state to issue the fourth license.

According to the latest report by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the three casinos generated gross gaming revenue of $686.6 million last year. The figure represents a 12% increase from $614.1 million in 2022.

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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 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.

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