Pope County Quorum Court okays Cherokee Nation Businesses, Legends casino project

by Roby Brock (roby@talkbusiness.net) 814 views 

With one vote to spare, the Cherokee Nation Businesses received the blessing of the Pope County Quorum Court on Tuesday night (Aug. 13) for a license to open a casino resort in the River Valley.

By a vote of eight for, four against and one abstention, quorum court members approved a resolution supporting the Cherokees’ bid, which included a partnership with Legends, a stadium-management, sports, and live entertainment company founded in 2008 by Arkansas native and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the late George Steinbrenner, former owner of the New York Yankees. The resolution of support needed seven votes from the 13-member county council.

Details of the $225 million Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas were revealed on Monday (Aug. 12). Some of the proposed amenities include:
• Approximately 50,000 square feet of gaming space accommodating 1,200 slot machines and 32 table games;
• A sportsbook located within a high-end sports bar;
• Luxury hotel with 200 rooms with a resort-style pool, spa and fitness center;
• 15,000 square feet of mixed-use conference and entertainment space accommodating 1,000 people;
• A variety of food options including a food hall, high-end steakhouse, grab & go concept and multiple bar and nightlife options;
• RV park with 100 spots;
• Outdoor water park; and
• Outdoor music venue.

The Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas will be designed by international firm HKS Architects and will showcase architecture influenced by the natural landscape of the Arkansas River Valley, the group said. The development is planned for near Russellville, Ark., on approximately 130 acres north of Interstate 40 along Nob Hill Road, between Weir Road and Alaskan Trail.

That address is important because it is apparently outside of the city limits, meaning the casino group does not need a letter of support from the mayor of Russellville. Amendment 100, the casino expansion measure passed by voters in November 2018, requires either a letter from the county judge or a resolution from the quorum court for a casino licensed in Pope County. If it had been in the city limits of Russellville, it would have required a letter from the mayor, too. The casino amendment does require the casino to be within two miles of the Russellville city limits if outside of its parameters.

Next up, supporters will submit their paperwork to the Arkansas Racing Commission, which meets Thursday (Aug. 15) in Little Rock. The regulatory panel is scheduled to hear an appeal from a casino operator, Gulfside Casino Group, that it turned down in June. It is not clear yet if it will take up the Cherokee Nation Businesses’ proposal at that meeting.

Shawn Slaton, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO, offered this statement to Talk Business & Politics.

“From the onset, we have pledged to be a honest, financially stable and community-driven operating partner. We are thankful for and excited about this opportunity and remain diligently focused on the future and continuing our collaborative efforts with local officials and the community at large,” Slaton said.

Terry Green, co-owner of Gulfside Casino Partnership, said, “We stand behind our application to the Arkansas Racing Commission. Gulfside has been — and continues to be — committed to building a first-class resort. When we receive a license, we will fulfill our vow to bring good-paying jobs, economic development and philanthropic dollars to the community.”

In addition to CNB and Gulfside, there were three other casino operators vying for the project in Pope County. They included proposals from the Robert and Ruth Kehl family of Iowa (River Ridge Casino), Tri-Peaks/Hard Rock Cafe, and the Choctaw Nation.

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