$300 million project 

Arkansas Racing Commission moves forward with Cherokee Nation's casino bid in Pope County

Render of Legends Resort Casino, Arkansas
Reading time 1:39 min

The Arkansas Racing Commission has voted to proceed with Cherokee Nation Entertainment's application to establish a casino in Pope County. Concurrently, the state board rejected Mississippi-based Gulfside Casino Partnerships' proposal.

The decision on Wednesday allows CNE to remain in the process of trying to get a license to open a gaming venue in the county. The company had previously unveiled its project for the Legends Casino development in Russellville earlier this month.

Cherokee Nation Entertainment, led by CEO Chuck Garrett, expressed readiness following the commission's decision. “As the only qualified applicant, we are eager to stand before the Arkansas Racing Commission where we will demonstrate Cherokee Nation Entertainment’s more than 30 years of experience in gaming and hospitality, its strong financial position, and plans for a world-class casino resort," Garrett said.

The commission's decision dealt a major setback to another contender, Gulfside Casino Partnerships. The commission officially rejected Gulfside's submission of an application due to lack of local support, after a company request for a letter of support from Pope County justices failed in a recent vote.

In response to the commission's ruling, a spokesperson for Gulfside Casino Partnerships stated that the group was assessing their options and considering their next steps.

The next phase in Cherokee Nation Entertainment's journey involves a presentation to the Arkansas Racing Commission scheduled for June 27, where they will seek formal scoring of their application. Subsequent steps include the commission's final vote on granting the official casino license.

The process has been closely followed by local officials, with Pope County Judge Ben Cross and the quorum court previously endorsing the Cherokee Nation's efforts with official letters of support.

The proposed CNE 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. 

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