CNB CEO updates council on Arkansas casino litigation

An artist’s rendering of the Legends Resort & Casino that Cherokee Nation Businesses hopes to build in Pope County, Arkansas

TAHLEQUAH – During the regular meeting of the Tribal Council on Jan. 17, members received a status update on the latest bout of litigation surrounding the efforts of CN Entertainment to build a casino near Russellville in Pope County, Ark.

A recent court decision has resulted in further delay, though CN Businesses CEO Chuck Garrett said the finding of the court was expected.

“That case was brought by one of the other candidates for the license, (Gulfside Casino Partnership) out of Mississippi,” Garrett said. “They were disappointed when we received the license, and they filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas Racing Commission.”

Garrett said Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox had ruled against the CN in other cases. Legal bouts over the Pope County gaming license have been underway for more than three years.

Fox said the license was issued in violation of the Arkansas state constitution because the ARC had no authority to issue jointly to CNB and Legends, which is the name of the LLC established to run the venue. Fox also ruled that Legends had no gaming experience as required by the ARC.

“We expected (Fox) to rule against us, and he did,” Garrett said. “We immediately filed with the Arkansas Supreme Court, where we are 4-0. We are confident that we have the arguments and the facts on our side.”

The new attorney general for Arkansas, Tim Griffin, suggested in a press statement that he supported the granting of the license to the CN.

“The issuance of the Pope County casino license by the Arkansas Racing Commission was legal in all respects,” Griffin said. “I look forward to advocating for that position before the Arkansas Supreme Court.”

Garrett said that if Arkansas Supreme Court were to rule against the CN, the worst-case scenario would be a replay of the process to award the license, and that CNB/Legends had the support of Pope County Judge Ben Cross, who would write a letter advocating issuance of the license to CN.

Cross, speaking to Arkansas media, said he expected the legal fight to end with the Arkansas Supreme Court.

“I’m happy that it’s finally going to a court that can close it out,” he said. “It’s actually a point we want to get to, because we want the supreme court to have the final say, and I feel confident Judge Fox’s ruling will be overturned … this will provide the finality that I’ve been reaching for four years.”

In other business, councilors amended the agenda to vote on four items: a budget modification and authorizations for the CN warehouse to make donations of items to Cave Springs School, the Oaks Fire Department and Braggs Public Schools.

During his monthly state of the CN address, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. pointed to the opening of the domestic violence transitional living shelter in Stilwell.

“It’s an impactful project that I think will make a difference in the lives of people who need our help through our One Fire program,” Hoskins said. “I think in the future it can be something we can expand across the reservation.”

Hoskin also briefly mentioned discussions with the council’s Rules Committee about putting $100 million into drug addiction and mental wellness facilities and programs. Such a move would require amending the Public Health and Wellness Act first approved by councilors in 2021. He also discussed passage of the Durbin Feeling Language Act in Congress, which was aided by CN input to the chambers and the Biden administration.

A special meeting of the CN Tribal Council is 3:30 p.m., Jan. 26 in the tribal headquarters inside the W.W. Keeler Complex. The next regular council meeting is 6 p.m., Feb. 13.

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