AR Racing Commissions Delays Pope County Licenses

  • Arkansas Racing Commission to wait on Pope County License
  • Three lawsuits presently ongoing against the Racing Commission
  • Voters disagree with the license-awarding process

The Arkansas Racing Commission has put license-awarding procedure for Pope County on hold while lawsuits look into the process of issuing permits.

Pope County License Put on Hold

Pope County will need to wait a little while longer for a casino – providing that the Arkansas Racing Commission decides to issue a license in the first place. The deferral comes after lawsuits have been lodged against the arrival of a casino project in the region.

Specifically, the lawsuits question the license-awarding procedure for the disputed casino project. Meanwhile, four projects have already been approved in Hot Springs and West Memphis.

Yet, Pope County has proven a more contentious matter, as the lawsuits have highlighted reported controversies in arranging casino projects. In August, the state’s regulator refused to accommodate a Mississippi-based company. Meanwhile, four companies remain tied for a casino license, including:

  • Cherokee Nation Businesses of Oklahoma
  • Kehl Management of Iowa
  • Warner Gaming of Nevada
  • Choctaw Nation Division of Commerce of Oklahoma

The Gulfside Casino Partnership would have beenan entrant, but the company’s bid was struck down by the Racing Commission, prompting legal recourse from Gulfside. Casinos will be the latest expansion on the already existing sports betting structure in the state.

Arkansas successfully pushed for sports betting in November 2018 when, during a referendum, voters decided to give their approval for the activity. Arkansas officially launched sports betting on July 1, 2019.

Not the Proper Place to Hear the Case

In September, a Pope County Circuit Court judge moved the Gulfside lawsuit from Pope County to Pulaski County, as the judge argued that Pulaski County was a more appropriate place for proceedings to continue.

The case against the Racing Commission features several key points. First, no casino should be awarded a license in Pope County without proper vetting by voters – something that has been already achieved and the Racing Commission has agreed to.

Secondly, Gulfside’s lawyer, Casey Castleberry, believes that Pope County may not as of now see a casino project, because no lawmaker has given an approval – outside the Commission’s representatives that is. Other than the case brought by Gulfside, there are two more legal proceedings here.

Two More Lawsuits in Pope County

According to Citizens for Better Pope County, awarding a license to the Cherokees was a violation of the referendum back in November, 2018 when it was agreed that votes would need to be called again to decide which companies may operate on the territory of the county.   

Meanwhile, Hans Stiritz, a representative of Concerned Citizens for Pope County, argued that the casino-awarding process in its current form was a violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Stiritz was joined by Pope County Justice of the Peace Joseph Pearson and Pope County prosecutor Jeff Phillips.

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