Monday’s ARC meeting found commissioner Butch Rice’s vote as biased and now the ARC will need to find a way to resolve the situation for the race of casino license in Pope County. While the race between the Gulfside Casino Partnership and Cherokee Nation continues, commissioner Rice said he: “did not cast anything intentionally to harm any casino.”
Commissioner Rice’s Vote Deemed Bias by the ARC
The race for a casino permit in Pope County, Arkansas continues. State commissioners were given the task to choose between two applicants. Those were the Gulfside Casino Partnership and Cherokee Nation. Based on four categories, the commissioners had to grade each project on a scale of 0-100. The vote by Commissioner Butch Rice raised many questions as he scored the Gulfside project with 100, while the Cherokee proposal ended with just 29 points.
The scoring led to the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) ruling yesterday that Rice’s vote had bias. On the same meeting yesterday, the ARC voted to exclude Rice’s vote. This was done under the pretext that ARC found there was “a reasonable suspicion of unfairness” in the vote by Rice.
The Commission Must Find a Way to Resolve the Issue
There were four commissioners who voted Gulfside with higher scores. Those are:
- Denny East, 94-88
- Bo Hunter, 94-79
- Michael Post, 97-90
- Butch Rice, 100-29
On the other hand, we have three commissioners who voted in favor of the Cherokee nation:
- Steve Landers, 100-90
- Alex Lieblong, 95-73
- Mark Lamberth, 91-89
With that being said, now the ARC is against a new challenge. To determine Rice’s score as bias, the Commission will need to find a way to resolve the situation. The choices that the commission has are:
- Select Gulfside Casino Partnership as the winner based on the original scoring
- Choose Cherokee Nation as the winner based on scoring excluding Rice’s vote
- Pick a third-party evaluator which could recommend a winner while at the same time the final decision will be the Commission’s
- Create a new scoring system
By the end of the meeting, no further decisions were made how to best fix the problem. What the Commission offered is for the two candidates to meet at the attorney general’s office. This is for the parties involved to try and find a way to resolve the matter.
Commissioner Butch Rice Says He Had No Favoritism
Commissioner Butch Rice said in the meeting that: “I tell you now I had no bias going into that meeting.” He further added: “I did not cast anything intentionally to harm any casino.” Rice pointed out that he was targeted by Dustin McDaniel who is attorney for Cherokee Nation with alleged accusations regarding his vote. Rice also explained some of the points as to why the Gulfside had advantage over the Cherokee Nation. He said that the Gulfide’s proposal had some 500 hotel rooms planned, while the Cherokee Nation’s offer had only 200 hotel rooms. According to Rice, the higher number of rooms will undoubtedly bring higher tax revenue to Arkansas. Another point that Rice raised in his defense of the vote was that the Cherokee proposal didn’t even had a set address for their casino. In addition, he pointed out that Gulfside’s banker attended the meeting.
Monday’s meeting was an emotional day for Rice as well. He pointed out that he was only made aware of the meeting on Friday. This gave him not enough time to prepare his statement, but also took from his personal time on the Father’s Day weekend. According to Rice, in this rush, he didn’t even know the full name of his attorney. In conclusion, Commissioner Rice said: “I scored it the way I saw it.“