Cherokee Nation Businesses sues Gulfside over casino ‘annex’ in Arkansas

BY D. SEAN ROWLEY
Senior Reporter
10/26/2020 09:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Gulfside’s River Valley Casino proposes to include a 500-room hotel and 80,000 square feet of gaming space. The Arkansas Racing Commission earlier this year awarded a casino license to Gulfside Casino Partnership over Cherokee Nation Businesses. RIVER VALLEY CASINO
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In the continuing legal battle over the license to operate a casino and resort in Pope County, Cherokee Nation Businesses filed a lawsuit on Oct. 13 seeking to block the plans of Gulfside Casino Partnership to open a casino “annex” during construction of the main venue.

CNB, which had its bid for the license rejected by the Arkansas Racing Commission, claims the ARC has no rules to govern approval of the annex, and that it would be sited on land outside what was approved under the license.

The CNB filing states that “Gulfside is now in the process of unlawfully constructing and operating a temporary annex casino in Pope County, Arkansas, that wholly conflicts with its application, its representations to the (ARC), its casino gaming license and the Casino Gaming Rules.”

“Pope County deserves a responsible operator that has a stellar track record of keeping promises made to communities, employees and local vendors,” CNB CEO Chuck Garrett said in a statement released Oct. 13. “While there are many legal proceedings left in this process, our commitment to Pope County and securing the casino license has never been greater.”

The ARC and Gulfside are named as defendants in the suit. Pope County Quorum Court Judge Ben Cross, who has voiced his support for the CNB proposal, is listed with CNB as a plaintiff.

Gulfside attorney Casey Castleberry also released a statement on Oct. 13, claiming a similar annex began operation beside the Saracen Casino Resort under construction in Pine Bluff by the Quapaw Nation. He said the Gulfside annex would have a restaurant, eight gaming tables and 500 slot machines.

“This is an issue for the Arkansas Racing Commission, not the courts,” Castleberry said. “Like … in Pine Bluff, Gulfside’s River Valley Annex would provide nearly 300 jobs and millions in revenue for the City of Russellville during the construction of our first-class resort. This lawsuit has no merit….”

Scott Hardin of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, speaking for the ARC in correspondence with Arkansas media, said an annex was included in the initial Quapaw Nation proposal.

Hardin said no annex was included in the Gulfside proposal, and further approval would be required from the ARC. He added that, as of Oct. 13, no application for an annex had been submitted by Gulfside and that no discussion of an annex was yet scheduled with the commission.

“There is nothing prohibiting Gulfside from proceeding with the casino it included in its application, although we always anticipated the company that was licensed would hold construction until litigation is complete,” Hardin wrote.

The Gulfside plan calls for completion of the 33,400-square-foot annex as it continues construction of its 80,000-square-foot casino and 500-bed hotel.
About the Author
Sean Rowley was hired by the Cherokee Phoenix at the beginning of 2019. Sean was born a long time ago in Tulsa, where he grew up and attended Booker T. Washington High School as a freshman before moving to Pawnee County and graduating from Cleveland High School in 1987. 

He graduated sans honors from Northeastern State University in 1992 with a bachelor of arts in mass communication with emphases in advertising and public relati ...
david-rowley@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Sean Rowley was hired by the Cherokee Phoenix at the beginning of 2019. Sean was born a long time ago in Tulsa, where he grew up and attended Booker T. Washington High School as a freshman before moving to Pawnee County and graduating from Cleveland High School in 1987. He graduated sans honors from Northeastern State University in 1992 with a bachelor of arts in mass communication with emphases in advertising and public relati ...

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