Arkansas Judge Invalidates Cherokee Nation License to Build Casino

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After Cherokee Nation Businesses, a Cherokee Nation tribal holding company based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, received an official license from the state board to construct a casino in Arkansas, an Arkansas judge invalidated the state board’s license approval, stating on Thursday that “the license was issued in violation of the state’s constitution.”

Strong opposition:

Tim Fox, a Pulaski County Circuit Judge, denied a license issued in 2021 to Cherokee Nation Businesses and the company charged by the Cherokee Nation to construct a casino in Pope County, Legends Resorts and Casino based in Russellville, Arkansas.

Pope County was one of four locations where casinos were permitted to be constructed under a constitutional amendment officially approved by voters in 2018. However, casinos have already been built in the other three sites, but Pope County’s license is stuck in the middle of constant legal battles.

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Mr. Fox stated that “the state Racing Commission did not have the authority to issue a license jointly to Legends and Cherokee Nation Businesses.”

In this regard, he also added: “Legends was not eligible for a license since it didn’t have prior casino experience.”

The legal battle continues:

Faced with this new problem, Cherokee Nation Businesses and Legends Resort and Casino’s officials said: “We plan to appeal the ruling.”

In this regard, their attorney added: “Both companies will ask the State’s Supreme Court to expedite the case.”

However, the main problem is that Cherokee Nation Businesses has bought more than 180 acres of land for the casino, but construction has not yet begun, due to ongoing legal issues.

In this regard, Chuck Garrett, Chief Executive Officer of Cherokee Nation Businesses, said in a statement: “While the circuit court’s ruling is disappointing, in the interest of forward progress, we are pleased to have a decision that we remain confident in our legal position and will move quickly to have our appeal heard by the Arkansas Supreme Court.”

Additional problems:

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As if this problem was not enough, the Cherokee Nation is facing an additional problem as another license applicant, Gulfside Casino Partnership, a Mississippi-based company, has initiated legal proceedings to challenge the license.

In a statement, Lucas Rowan, Gulfside’s attorney, said: “Gulfside remains committed to building a first-class entertainment destination in Pope County and bringing good-paying jobs and economic development to Arkansas, and this ruling that Legends was not qualified is a step in that direction.”

Gulfside received an Arkansas casino license in 2020. However, that license was overturned after the Arkansas Supreme Court said it must include the support of current elected officials in the area.

Subsequently, a new application for a casino license was filed with the support of a previous Pope County judge.

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