Over $300 million investment

Arkansas: Cherokee Nation submits bid for Pope County casino license, unveils Legends Resort & Casino plans 

Reading time 2:28 min

Cherokee Nation Entertainment (CNE) has officially joined the race for the Pope County casino gaming license, submitting an application to the Arkansas Racing Commission on Wednesday. Alongside the application, CNE unveiled its project for the region – Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas.

The proposed development entails an investment exceeding $300 million in Pope County. This includes the construction of a 50,000-square-foot casino boasting 1,200 slot machines, 32 table games, a poker room, and a sportsbook. Additionally, the resort will feature a 200-room hotel, complete with a resort pool and luxury spa.

Among the amenities planned are dining options ranging from casual grab-and-go spots to an upscale steakhouse. The multipurpose space within the resort will be designed to host meetings, conferences, concerts, and special events. Adding to the offerings, there will be an outdoor music venue and a water park, as well as provisions for an RV park and a dog park.

The location earmarked for the venture sits northeast of Russellville, strategically positioned just north of Interstate 40 between the Weir Road and Bradley Cove Road exits. 

Chuck Garrett, CEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment, said: “For the past five years, we have been laying the groundwork for this one-of-a-kind, shovel-ready commercial casino resort and becoming engrained in the local community.

We are honored to have garnered the required support of Pope County leaders, purchased 325 acres of land, and obtained a Large-Scale Development permit from the City of Russellville. With the application now submitted, we are eager to present our plans and vast experience to the Arkansas Racing Commission and earn the state’s final casino license.”

Chuck Garrett, CEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment

CNE anticipates that the Legends Resort & Casino project will have a significant economic impact on Arkansas, estimating it to exceed $5 billion over the first decade. The venture is projected to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs while also generating tax revenue for the state, the Arkansas Racing Commission, as well as for Russellville and Pope County.

Gulfside Casino Partnership announced last month its plans for a $405 million Pope County casino development. However, CNE believes its project is better positioned to secure the casino license.

Mark Fulton, President of Cherokee Nation Entertainment, said: “Our development is easily a year ahead of any other newly proposed casino project. Once the casino license is awarded, we expect to commence the 18-month construction process after 60 to 90 days of permitting and pre-construction work.

"CNE is committed and eager to fulfill its obligations under the $38.8 million economic development agreement executed with Pope County. Since opening an office in Russellville nearly five years ago, the team has listened to the community, invested hours of volunteerism, and partnered with organizations to make an impact on the lives of Arkansans.”

CNE has engaged Legends Hospitality, a third-party hospitality consultant, for the project, while hospitality and entertainment design firm HBG Design Architects has been hired to execute the design. Little Rock’s CDI Contractors will serve as the project’s construction manager and HP Engineering, based in Rogers, is an engineering consultant.

In December, Pope County officials took a decisive step in the ongoing debate over casino vendors for the construction of the casino and resort in Russellville by voting seven to six in favor of exclusively supporting Cherokee Nation Entertainment as the preferred candidate for a casino partnership. It is anticipated that only the Cherokee plan will qualify for review due to this support.

The vote marked a pivotal moment in what has become a long-standing, contentious issue within the community. Pope County Judge Ben Cross described the decision as a relief in a matter that has deeply divided the locality.

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