Pope County leaders endorse proposal for new casino

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
08/16/2019 08:00 AM
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (AP) – Leaders in Pope County have endorsed a proposal from Cherokee Nation Businesses to build a casino and hotel complex in the county, which would become Arkansas’ fourth casino.

After little discussion, the Pope County Quorum Court voted Aug. 13 to support the proposed Legends Resort & Casino, which would be built north of Russellville and Interstate 40. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Legends project beat out four other proposals to get the nod from the quorum court.

The quorum court endorsed the proposal despite a county ordinance that would require officials to seek voter approval before backing a casino proposal.

County Judge Ben Cross said CNB would pay a $38.8 million “economic development fee” once any legal or administrative challenges are resolved related to the issuance of a casino license from the Arkansas Racing Commission. That money would be distributed among 17 different entities, including some cities in Pope County, nonprofit organizations and education foundations.

“I would not allow anything to go to the Racing Commission without an ironclad contract agreement because it’s my job to protect Pope County,” Cross said.

Arkansas voters legalized casino gambling in 2018 but only at four locations in the state: existing racetracks in Hot Springs and West Memphis and at new sites in Jefferson and Pope counties.

The Pope County project calls for a $225 million resort that includes 50,000 square feet of gambling space with 1,200 slot machines and 32 table games, as well as sports betting. The project also includes a 200-room hotel and conference center.

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