Gulfside chosen over CNB for Arkansas casino license
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Despite efforts spanning for than 18 months, Cherokee Nation Businesses was not chosen on June 18 to receive a license to build a resort and casino in Pope County.
The Arkansas Racing Commission instead awarded the license to Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi, which proposed its River Valley Casino Resort.
Upon completion, the casino will be the fourth and final permitted under state law when Arkansans passed Amendment 100 to the state constitution in 2018. The amendment allowed the licensing and establishment of casinos in Jefferson and Pope counties, and the horse racing venues at Oaklawn and Southland.
The Gulfside proposal envisions a conventional casino and resort, with phased expansions and an effort to draw visitors from out of state, including Oklahoma. Gulfside also projected the creation of 1,600 permanent jobs upon opening, and 2,300 after five years.
Conversely, the CNB plan called for a casino with a more established footprint that was more family friendly.
Terry Green, co-owner and cofounder for Gulfside, said the casino would be completed in 20-24 months, and would require an investment of $254 million.
CNB and Gulfside each informed the ARC at a May meeting that a legal challenge should be anticipated regardless of which application was chosen.
“On Tuesday, I submitted a letter to the Attorney General’s office expressing my concern that an obviously biased Commissioner could potentially overturn the will of the rest of the Commission due to the proposed scoring system,” Dustin McDaniel, CNB legal counsel said in a written statement. “Despite the AG’s office expressly warning Commissioners not to engage in arbitrary, capricious or biased scoring, Commissioner (Butch) Rice in fact single handedly overturned the score given by the rest of the Commission. We anticipate both an administrative appeal and a request for injunctive relief from a court. This is a uniquely significant state decision, and such an egregious act of bad faith should not be allowed to control it.”