In a surprising move, an Arkansas judge has stripped Legends Resort & Casino of its Arkansas casino license.
According to a four-page order, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled the Arkansas Racing Commission mistakenly awarded the Pope County casino permit to two operators. The two operators in question are Legends and company owner Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB).
As mentioned in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, in his decision, Fox wrote:
“The Amendment 100 definition of a ‘casino applicant’ clearly and unambiguously speaks in terms of a single individual or business entity as being the casino applicant and licensee. CNB and Legends are two separate legal entities.
The fact that CNB may be one of the members of Legends or even the only member of Legends, does not alter the legal state that CNB and Legends are distinct and separate legal entities.”
Commission ‘retroactively’ approved Arkansas casino license application
Arkansas gaming law explicitly states that only a single entity can own a casino license. Furthermore, gaming law also states an entity must have prior gaming experience in the state.
In May 2019, CNB was one of five operators to apply for the Pope County casino license. The commission denied all applicants at the time after determining none met the constitutionally mandated requirements.
Four months later, after the application window had closed, Legends Resort & Casino was created by the CNB. Then in January 2020, Legends submitted an application asking the commission to “retroactively” accept the application.
The commission then awarded the license to Legends/Cherokee Nation Business. Judge Fox continued: “The Racing Commission abused its regulatory agency discretion in allowing — Legends’ casino license application to be tendered over seven months after the May 2019 license period closed when Legends did not even exist at the time of the May 2019 application period.
It was a legal impossibility for Legends to have submitted a timely casino license application, so there could not legally be ‘good cause shown’ for its application to be submitted late.”
Legends Resort & Casino will be appealing Judge Fox’s decision
According to the Gazette, lawyers for Legends and CNB already plan to appeal the decision with the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Chuck Garrett, CEO of CNB said although the ruling was disappointing, the company was pleased to have a decision. “We remain confident in our legal position and will move quickly to have our appeal heard.”