$405 million casino plan

Arkansas: Pope County Quorum Court rejects support for Gulfside's casino proposal

Gulfside's River Valley Casino Resort rendering
Reading time 2:30 min

The Pope County Quorum Court voted Thursday against a letter of support for a $405 million casino plan near Russellville proposed by Gulfside Casino Partnership. The 7-5 vote creates an additional obstacle for Gulfside in its bid to secure the state license needed to build and operate a casino in the county, seemingly leaving Cherokee Nation Entertainment (CNE) as the only candidate for the project.

The requested letter was intended for inclusion in Gulfside’s application to the Arkansas Racing Commission for the Pope County casino license. This rejection comes as Gulfside competes with Cherokee Nation Entertainment for the permit.

The latest developments in the casino license saga came ahead of a Tuesday application deadline. The Arkansas Racing Commission will begin reviewing applications today, Wednesday, with a mandate to issue the license within 30 days of the deadline. It is expected that the Cherokee's project will be the only one to be reviewed after Gulfside's failure to secure the endorsement of the Quorum Court.

The pursuit of a casino license in Pope County has been contentious since the approval of Amendment 100 in 2018, which authorized casino operations in four Arkansas counties. While casinos in Hot Springs, West Memphis, and Pine Bluff have become operational, the Pope County license remains contested.

Initially, Gulfside was awarded the license but lost it following a legal dispute with the Cherokee Nation. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in October 2021 that Gulfside's application lacked the required official support letter from a current elected official, unlike Cherokee Nation’s application. Further legal proceedings returned the licensing process to the Arkansas Racing Commission.

Gulfside unveiled its $405 million plan on May 29. The proposal includes a $65 million payment to Pope County and an annual $2 million commitment for economic development. The project, to be located on 20 acres, promises a casino resort with 300 hotel rooms, a convention center, a steakhouse, a casino lounge, a 24-hour café, an outdoor amphitheater, a spa, and a coffee shop. Gulfside estimates the project will create 1,695 direct jobs, a $60.5 million annual payroll, and generate $29.5 million in annual tax revenue

Terry Green, Co-Owner of Gulfside, stated during the announcement: “Our proposed River Valley Casino Resort will redefine regional tourism with 70,000 square feet of unparalleled gaming space, 1,500 state-of-the-art slot machines, 50 table games and a dedicated sportsbook, among other world-class amenities. This high-end destination will drive economic development in the region and be an employer of choice, fostering a thriving community for generations to come.”

Cherokee Nation Entertainment submitted its competing application on June 5. Their $300 million project includes a 50,000-square-foot casino with 1,200 slot machines, 32 table games, a poker room, and a sportsbook. The development plan also features a 200-room hotel, resort pool, luxury spa, multiple dining options, and a multipurpose space for events.

CNE President Mark Fulton said: “Our more than $300 million project is not just an idea; it is a full-fledged economic development plan that has been in the works for over five years with the required support of Pope County leaders... Legends Resort & Casino is a world-class entertainment destination that will bring thousands of jobs to Pope County and provide more than $5 billion in economic impact over the first 10 years.”

An Arkansas Racing Commission decision is expected by mid-summer. Applications will be evaluated based on experience in casino gaming, financial stability, detailed project plans, and the proposed timeline for opening.

The ongoing process could be further complicated by a potential constitutional amendment on the November ballot, which could revoke the Pope County casino license and require local approval for future casino projects. The amendment is being promoted by the group Local Voters in Charge, which needs to gather over 90,000 signatures by July 5 to qualify for the ballot.

Leave your comment
Subscribe to our newsletter
Enter your email to receive the latest news
By entering your email address, you agree to Yogonet's Condiciones de uso and Privacy Policies. You understand Yogonet may use your address to send updates and marketing emails. Use the Unsubscribe link in those emails to opt out at any time.