Arkansas Supreme Court Denies Casino License Holder’s Petition For New Hearing

Written By Derek Helling on January 15, 2024
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The Arkansas Supreme Court might someday weigh in on the matter of the license for a fourth casino in the state but it won’t be right away. For the time being at least, its last word on that matter remains final.

A party to the lawsuit concerning that license had asked the court to rehear the case but the court has denied that petition. That decision puts the onus on what will happen with the license moving forward back on gaming regulators in Arkansas.

Arkansas Supreme Court decides it agrees with itself

According to a news article by Michael R. Wickline of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the justices denied the petition from Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) on Thursday. CNB was the last holder of the license to construct and operate Arkansas’ fourth casino in Pope County.

However, in October 2023, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the state’s racing commission erred when it awarded that license to CNB. The trial court had found that CNB did not meet the constitutional requirements for a licensee as the new company had no prior gaming experience.

CNB had been behind that appeal to the state’s highest court and had asked the court to rehear the case in what amounted to a last-ditch effort to preserve its licensure. However, that will not happen. For now, at least, no one holds the license for Arkansas’ fourth casino.

Eventually, that will change. While it’s uncertain how soon that will happen, what seems more clear is that the future awarding of the license may involve Arkansas’ court system yet again.

Arkansas Racing Commission is back on the job

Wickline reports that according to a statement from the Arkansas Racing Commission, the commission’s next step in restarting the licensing process will be to meet with the state’s attorney general and the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration to determine the best course of action. The commission has yet to announce a date for that meeting.

Whenever it happens, the commissioners will have many eyes upon them. To say that the process for issuing this license has been fraught is an understatement. The story so far includes:

If CNB and another former licensee — Gulfside Casino Partnership — do submit new bids for the license, that would seem to signal that whichever party does not receive the award could challenge the Commission’s decision again.

The Commission will likely be in close consultation with the state’s attorney general to ensure that it follows every letter of the law to avoid that situation. It’s already been five years since Arkansas voters originally authorized a casino in Pope County.

The other three casinos that the measure authorized are up and running. That should happen someday in Pope County as well. Depending on how litigious the parties that don’t receive the license this time, it may be another five years before anything substantial happens on that front.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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