Pope County casino to benefit local economy

A Pope County casino will boost tourism and activate the local economy.
A Pope County casino will boost tourism and activate the local economy.

A county judge highlighted that the deal with the Cherokee Nation to develop a new Pope County casino will be highly beneficial to the area.

US.- Pope County judge Ben Cross has highlighted that Russellville is a top beneficiary of the Cherokee casino deal. Even as the agreement with the tribe doesn’t mention the city, he said it wasn’t left out.

“Quite to the contrary. Russellville will get a convention centre, water park, and concert venue for absolutely free. (It’ll be) with no expense to the taxpayer, all of which, were conveyed to me by city residents as their priorities,” Cross told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The Pope County casino was approved in early August by the Pope County Quorum Court. However, Cross also presented the “Economic Development Agreement” he negotiated with the Cherokees.

The document talks about a US$38.8 million “economic development fee,” but doesn’t mention Russellville. However, according to Cross, the city is “actually the largest” beneficiary.

The Cherokee Nation Businesses will develop a US$225 million venue that includes a 15k-square-foot meeting and conference centre, a pool, an outdoor music venue, a recreational-vehicle area and dog park, and an outdoor water park. All those facilities would be just north of Russellville city limits.

“This action frees up some US2.4 million in cash assets and US$5 million in real estate assets the city currently has for a convention centre, for which, they can either refund to their citizens or eventually be repurposed by the city government for other infrastructure needs,” Cross said.

Hard Rock’s interest

The new Arkansas casino comes after voters approved a constitutional amendment. That triggered a partnership between Warner Gaming and Hard Rock that are pushing for a fully integrated resort casino.

“We aim to deliver to Pope County a facility that will attract visitors throughout the region and beyond,” Bill Warner, owner and CEO of Warner Gaming said. “With its truly global reach, the Hard Rock brand will help us do that.”

“The Hard Rock brand is one of the most recognisable in the world. We are pleased with the opportunity to bring the Hard Rock brand to Arkansas and continue our relationship with the Warner Gaming team,” said Jon Lucas, chief operating officer of Hard Rock International.

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