Claims undue influence over officials

Gulfside files lawsuit against Cherokee Nation Businesses over Arkansas' fourth casino license

Rendering for CNB's proposed resort
Reading time 1:33 min

Gulfside Casino Partnership has filed a lawsuit against Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB), alleging coercion and improper practices aimed at securing a casino license in Pope County, Arkansas. The lawsuit, lodged in the Arkansas court system, contends that CNB exerted undue influence over local officials to favor its bid for the state's fourth gaming license.

Gulfside Casino Partnership, based in Mississippi, has been actively pursuing a casino license in Pope County since 2019. The company was initially granted the permit, but this move was subsequently reversed by the Arkansas Supreme Court due to contention with the issuance of the letter of support by the Pope County Judge.

The company asserts that it diligently fulfilled all regulatory requirements necessary to apply for the license, including securing support from local authorities. However, their efforts were nullified this year, when the bidding process was reopened and CNB was awarded the license instead.

According to the lawsuit, CNB allegedly employed tactics of coercion and intimidation directed at Pope County Judge Ben Cross and members of the Quorum Court. These efforts, Gulfside claims, were intended to sway support in favor of CNB, undermining the legitimacy of the licensing process.

Central to Gulfside's complaint is the contention that CNB's actions, as outlined in the "Economic Development Agreement" (EDA), involved financial inducements and commitments to local entities in exchange for political endorsements. Gulfside argues that such agreements violate public policy and impair fair competition for the casino license.

"The discretion of the County Judge and Quorum Court cannot be bought, to the exclusion of all other interested operators, with funds denominated 'Economic Development' funds," the lawsuit asserts.

The legal challenge further cites legal precedents, including Johnson v. Board of Commissioners, to argue that local officials cannot be bound by agreements that compromise their impartiality in decision-making processes.

Under Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution, the Racing Commission is mandated to fairly award casino gaming licenses without undue influence from outside entities. Gulfside contends that CNB's alleged actions circumvented this constitutional mandate, seeking nullification of the CNB EDA and associated endorsements.

In response to the lawsuit, a spokesperson for Cherokee Nation Businesses has refuted the allegations, asserting that all procedures and guidelines were adhered to in securing the license. The spokesperson emphasized that CNB's actions were lawful and ethical throughout the licensing process.

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