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Arkansas Regulators Approve New Application Period For Pope County Casino License

Written By Katarina Vojvodic | Updated:
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While Saracen Casino Resort is interested in discussing an online casino with the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC), the regulatory body has made it clear it has business to take care of first — a casino in Pope County, which would be the fourth in the state.

On Monday, the ARC approved the license application period for operators. The new application period for the Pope County casino license will open on May 12 and close on June 11.

A spokesman for the ARC said they did not discuss the iGaming proposal during Monday’s meeting. Scott Hardin told PlayUSA:

“The commission is then required to issue the license within 30 business days of June 11. As a result, the license will be issued this summer, assuming we don’t face any unexpected delays.

An application must be accompanied by a letter of support from the County Judge or an Ordinance of Support from the Quorum Court in order to be considered by the commission. The power to choose the companies they want to be considered remains with local leaders.”

River Valley and Legends Resort & Casino targeting Russellville, Arkansas

Following Monday’s meeting, when the ARC voted to reopen bidding for the license, Gulfside Casino Partnership and Cherokee Nation Businesses released official statements expressing gratitude for the commission.

According to an article by the Arkansas Advocate, Casey Castleberry, counsel for Gulfside Casino Partnership, said: “We appreciate the Arkansas Racing Commission making it clear the application period will open Sunday and close on June 12. Prior to the ARC’s deadline, we look forward to presenting our proposal to the Pope County Quorum Court and seeking a resolution of support.”

In a separate release, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Chuck Garrett commented:

“Having obtained the exclusive support of Pope County Judge Ben Cross as required by Amendment 100 and a resolution of support from the Pope County Quorum Court, we anticipate being the sole qualified applicant.

We look forward to standing before the Arkansas Racing Commission where we will demonstrate our more than 30 years of experience in gaming and hospitality, as well as our plans for Legends Resort & Casino to be built in Russellville.”

After Sunday, the commission has 30 days to issue the license. Now we will see who ends up with the Pope County casino license.

Once the license is issued, it would take about a year and a half for the casino to be operational.

Application process for the Pope County casino license opens for the third time

After Arkansans voted to approve four casinos in the state, this marks the ARC’s third attempt in over five years to issue a casino license in Pope County. The courts invalidated two previous versions of licenses given to:

  • Gulfside Casino Partnership
  • Cherokee Nation Business partnered with Legends Resort & Casino

In 2018, voters approved Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution, allowing four casinos to operate in the state. The first two licensees were specified in the amendment and included the existing racetracks in:

  1. Southland Casino Hotel in West Memphis
  2. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs

The Commission issued the third license without much debate in Jefferson County thanks to local support for the Quapaw Nation, which led to the launch of Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff.

Although the third license to Saracen Casino Resort was issued quickly, the Pope County license faced many challenges and has been stuck in court.

While the Pope County casino has supporters, it also faces opposition. Likewise, it attracted multiple operators interested in obtaining the license.

Photo by Markus Mainka/Shutterstock
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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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