Legends Resort and Casino

Arkansas lawsuit seeks to halt Pope County casino over Cherokee firm's alleged lack of experience

Rendering for the proposed Legends Resort and Casino in Arkansas.
Reading time 2:17 min

A lawsuit has been filed in the Pulaski County Circuit, Arkansas, to issue a temporary restraining order halting any movement on a casino project in Pope County. The suit contends whether Cherokee Nation-backed firm Legends Resort and Casino has sufficient casino experience.

The case was filed by John Goodin, a member of the anti-casino group Citizens for a Better Pope County, in his individual capacity. The suit also takes issue with how the license recipient’s name was listed on the gambling license, issued last month.

"When the Arkansas Racing Commission issued the license, we were surprised to see that they issued it to something called 'Cherokee Nation Businesses, LLC/Legends Resort and Casino, LLC,'" said Jerry Malone, the attorney for Goodin, according to Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Goodin’s lawyer claims that “there is no such entity,” and that research at the secretary of state’s office showed “no listing” for the company. Malone added that, even if the license had listed only Legends Resort and Casino, the state’s Racing Commission would still be in violation of Amendment 100 because Legends has no gambling experience.

Goodin is asking in the petition for a declaratory judgment and injunction that Judge Fox of Pulaski County Circuit declare that the Racing Commission unconstitutionally issued the license despite Legends not being a qualified applicant under Amendment 100, while also declaring it unconstitutional for the commission to award the license to the "non-applicant entity" Cherokee Nation Businesses LLC/Legends Resort and Casino LLC, adds Democrat Gazette.

The constitution amendment allowed for casinos in both Pope and Jefferson counties, as well as at the established race tracks in Hot Springs and West Memphis. Legends Resort and Casino, formed as an Arkansas limited liability company on September 11, 2019, first submitted an application for the license on January 15, 2020. Before that, the application was solely in the name of Cherokee Nation Businesses, wholly owned by the Cherokee Nation.

"CNB's history in the hospitality and gaming industry spans more than three decades," Chuck Garrett, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses, said in an email statement to the previously cited news source. "We helped pioneer casino gaming in Oklahoma, and our operations have grown to include 10 casinos and associated hospitality amenities.”

Additionally, Dustin McDaniel, attorney for Cherokee Nation Businesses, said the Pope County license was “properly and consistently” issued under the state’s Racing Commission rules. He said the tribe will “work quickly” to dismiss the lawsuit.

"We are confident in our legal position and will work quickly to dismiss this new lawsuit which rehashes old allegations already addressed by the Arkansas Racing Commission, not to mention the Commission's expert consultant which found CNB to have superior experience," the attorney said. The Commission was aware of the complaint when taking a decision.

The Legends Resort and Casino, a $225 million project, would be located near Russellville, off Hob Nob Road. It is set to feature 1,100 slot machines, 32 table games and 200 hotel rooms. The license for the casino was awarded on November 12.

The award followed an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling favoring the Cherokee Nation in October. The court ruled that the endorsement required for a casino license must come from elected local officials in office at the time of the application: this left competitor Gulfside Casino Partnership, which submitted its application with a letter of support from Pope County’s former Judge Jim Ed, out of the race.

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