Lawsuit filed over Pope County casino licence

The lawsuit was filed by John Goodin, a member of Citizens for a Better Pope County.
The lawsuit was filed by John Goodin, a member of Citizens for a Better Pope County.

The suit questions whether Cherokee Nation-backed firm Legends Resort and Casino has enough casino experience.

US.- John Goodin, a member of the anti-casino group Citizens for a Better Pope County, has filed a lawsuit asking the Pulaski County Circuit Court to issue a temporary restraining order halting a casino in Pope County until authorities have addressed whether Legends Resort and Casino has casino experience.

Cherokee Nation Businesses and Legends Resort and Casino were awarded the license on November 12 after the Supreme Court reversed and dismissed a ruling by Judge Tim Fox that declared as unconstitutional a commission rule and state law that required that letters of endorsements for casino licences come from local officials in office at the time the license application is submitted.

Goodin has asked for a declaratory judgment and injunction declaring that the Racing Commission unconstitutionally issued the license despite Legends not being a qualified applicant under Amendment 100 and to declare it unconstitutional for the commission to award the licence to the “non-applicant entity” Cherokee Nation Businesses LLC/Legends Resort and Casino LLC.

According to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Goodin’s lawyer Jerry Malone says that Legends has no gambling experience, as required under the state constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2018. The amendment allows casinos in Pope and Jefferson counties as well as at the established race tracks in Hot Springs and West Memphis.

He added: “When the Arkansas Racing Commission issued the license, we were surprised to see that they issued it to something called ‘Cherokee Nation Businesses, LLC/Legends Resort and Casino, LLC.’ There is no such entity. We researched the secretary of state’s office and there is no listing for this company.”

Legends Resort and Casino, formed as an Arkansas limited liability company on September 11, 2019, first submitted an application for the licence on January 15, 2020. Before that, the application was solely in the name of Cherokee Nation Businesses, wholly owned by the Cherokee Nation.

Dustin McDaniel, Cherokee Nation Businesses’ attorney, said the Pope County license was issued “properly and consistently” with Racing Commission rules and “CNB’s application.”

“We are confident in our legal position and will work quickly to dismiss this new lawsuit which rehashes old allegations already addressed by the Arkansas Racing Commission, not to mention the Commission’s expert consultant which found CNB to have superior experience,” McDaniel said.

Chuck Garrett, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses, said: “CNB’s history in the hospitality and gaming industry spans more than three decades.” 

He added: “We helped pioneer casino gaming in Oklahoma, and our operations have grown to include 10 casinos and associated hospitality amenities, including restaurants, entertainment venues, hotels, golf courses, and a horseracing track.”

The proposed Cherokee Nation venue would be a $225m casino resort with 1,100 slot machines, 32 table games and 200 hotel rooms. It will be located near Russellville, in northwest Arkansas. The site is northwest of Little Rock, the state capital.

See also: Lawsuit filed against new Arkansas casino project

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