Mississippi company has applied for a casino license in Arkansas, but the proposal lacks the backing of current local officials. Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Scott Hardin on Monday said the state received an application last week from Gulfside Casino Partnership for a casino in Russellville —Pope County River Valley Casino. The firm currently operates Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport, Mississippi.
A constitutional amendment voters approved last November legalized casinos in Pope and Jefferson counties, at a Hot Springs horse track and a West Memphis dog track. The amendment also solidified the existing casinos at Oaklawn and Southland Parks and cut their gambling taxes. The state received an application for the Jefferson County license from the Downstream Development Authority, a business arm of the Quapaw tribe, and it has full support from local officials.
Hardin said the Pope County application included letters from former local leaders. Racing Commission regulations say letters of support can only come from current officeholders. Gulfside had lined up letters of approval from lame-duck local officials in Russellville and Pope County last year, before the permit process had opened. Since then, the Racing Commission has adopted a rule saying local approval means by officials in office when an application is filed.
River Valley Casino Resort concept design.
The current mayor and county judge have said they don’t intend to back a casino without a local vote first, as required by an ordinance adopted in November. There are differing legal opinions on whether that referendum requirement can legally be added to terms of the casino amendment. At least two other casino operators have expressed an interest in Pope County, but haven’t filed applications, according to Arkansas Times.
The applications are not open to inspection until the Racing Commission acts. Applications will be accepted through May 30, and the Commission will meet on them June 13.