Better Pope County Challenges Re-Opening of Casino Application process

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Citzens for a Better Pope County, an activist group pushing for fair casino licensing procedures, has opposed an Arkansas Racing Commission opinion to open a second round of licensing applications.

Better Pope County Launches New Lawsuit Against Casino project.

Activist group Citizens for a Better Pope County, dedicated to oppose illegal casino projects in Pope County, filed a new lawsuit with a Little Rock circuit court on Friday, December 27. In their lawsuit, Better Pope County members have collectively argued that the state’s regulator, the Racing Commission, doesn’t have the remit to open a second application process.

To make their case, the group cited Amendment 100 added to the Arkansas Constitution during a referendum in 2018. According to last year’s decision, re-opening the application process should only happen if the first round of applications didn’t attract any bidders.

However, the Racing Commission simply ended up turning down all five bids for lack of support from Pope County elected officials.

Why the Strong Opposition in Pope County?

Even though Arkansas voters have acquiesced to casino projects it has done so according to specific criteria. For starters, no casino project can be given the greenlight until county officials have endorsed the project officially.

In the case of the Pope County Cherokee casino, the Quorum Court approved a casino without backing from officials, triggering strong opposition from locals. Meanwhile, the latest lawsuit is just a continuation of the mounting opposition.

There have been some issues over who holds jurisdiction over which case. The present legal action was to be handled by Circuit Judge Chip Welch. Yet, the case has been further transferred from Judge Welch to Judge Wendell Griffen. Meanwhile, Pulaski County has also had jurisdiction in previous legal motions.

Furthermore, Better Pope County wants to hold a meeting with the Racing Commission. The Commission is meeting on Monday, January 6, 2020 to discuss the issue as well as the available applications from bidders, i.e. the Cherokee and the Choctaw Native American tribes.

Russellville Stands to Benefit the Most out of Cherokee Casino

Meanwhile, Pope County judge Ben Cross said earlier this month that should a Cherokee Nation Businesses finally set up a casino, Russellville could expect the bulk of the revenue. However, the land for the project will have to be annexed to the city first. The Cherokee tribe will have to formally ask the city to proceed with the annexation, assimilating specific pieces of land first.

At the same time, there have been plans to expand Hot Springs and West Memphis gambling and racetrack properties as per Amendment 100, although this may now be mothballed due to the latest issues between the Racing Commission, would-be operators and locals.

Cross has also listed a number of projects that stand to benefit thanks to $27.6 million in upfront money paid by the Cherokee Nation Businesses. Tax hikes in the event of raising operating costs were unlikely, Cross explained, because a would-be casino would more than offset any such developments.

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