A second Oklahoma tribe has submitted an application to win the Pope County gaming license, the fourth and final commercial casino permit in Arkansas.
The submission was received on Monday before the Arkansas Racing Commission’s deadline at the close of business. The application comes from the Choctaw Nation, an Oklahoma tribe that operates three casino resorts and 18 other gaming venues in the Native American group’s home state.
The application, however, is incomplete, as it doesn’t come with support from county officials. Pope County has already revealed public support for a casino resort from the Cherokee Nation, another Oklahoma tribe.
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has consistently advocated for a fair, open and transparent process,” Choctaw spokesperson Janie Dillard said of the tribe’s application. “We hope that the state will take action to allow all proposals to receive fair consideration.”
Arkansas voters passed Issue 4 in November of 2018. The measure became Amendment 100 on the state constitution. The vote allowed the state’s two racetrack racinos – Oaklawn and Southland – to transition into full-scale commercial casinos with slot machines and table games. It additionally earmarked one casino resort for Pope and Jefferson counties.
Pope County was one of the 11 counties out of Arkansas’ 75 that voted against Issue 4. There was also, at the time, an ordinance that required local officials to have the support of their constituents in order to lend their own individual support to a casino bid.
However, last month the Pope County Quorum Court repealed the casino vote ordinance and issued its letter of support to the Cherokee Nation. A circuit court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by casino opponents challenging the quorum court’s actions.
The Pope casino is the fourth and final gaming license that remains up for grabs.
Jefferson County picked the Quapaw Nation in Oklahoma to build a casino resort in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The tribe is planning to build a clone of its Downstream Casino Resort at a cost of roughly $350 million.
Driving Arkansas Forward, the group behind Issue 4 that caused controversy for advertising that casinos might help repair state roads (no gaming revenue tax is allocated for the Department of Transportation), was heavily funded by the Cherokee and Quapaw nations.
The two tribes collectively contributed more than $6 million – nearly all of Driving Arkansas Forward’s funds. The Cherokees say they are the only qualified bidder in Pope.
Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) is the only operator to fully meet the qualification requirements pursuant to Amendment 100, and we remain highly optimistic upon today’s closing of the application window set forth by the Arkansas State Racing Commission,” said Cherokee CEO Chuck Garrett.
The Cherokees announced in June that they’re teaming with Legends, a hospitality company co-founded by billionaire NFL Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. “Legends will manage the process for the design and development of the complex, conceive the culinary experience, and help CNB to monetize the guest experience for non-gaming attractions,” a tribal explanation read.