Pope County, Arkansas Debates Two Cherokee Nation Casino Proposals

Pope County, Arkansas Debates Two Cherokee Nation Casino Proposals

Land-based casino in Arkansas and all across the nation are getting back to business following the recent coronavirus shutdowns. Plans for expansion through new casino projects are also back on the table. Last Thursday, the Arkansas Racing Commission picked the winning bid through a contentious vote.

Is Pope County The Only Place In Arkansas Where They Are Debating Casino Proposals?

The winning group was the Mississippi-based Gulfside Casino Partnership. The other proposal came from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Gulfside is owned by Terry Green and Rick Carter. It was a narrow victory in a 4-3 vote by the seven commissioners.

Each proposal was graded on a 100-point list of criteria. The breakdown was as follows:

  1. Experience conducting gaming: 30 points
  2. Time for opening casino: 10 points
  3. Proof of financial stability and access to financial resources: 30 points
  4. Detailed summary of proposed casino: 30 points

The final tally was 637 to 572 total points favoring Gulfside. Each commissioner took part in the rankings.

The specifics for the Gulfside proposal includes a $254 million investment. There will be a 500-room hotel. The casino will encompass 80,000 square feet of space. There will be 1,900 slot machines and 90 gaming tables. Total employment will create 1,695 full-time jobs. The estimated payroll tops $60 million.

The new casino in Russellville, Arkansas would be called River Valley Casino. Turning to the Cherokee Nation plan, the total investment was $225 million. The hotel offered 200 rooms and the total gaming space was 50,000 square feet. This project would create 1000 new jobs with an unspecified total payroll amount.

All of the controversies surrounded Butch Rice’s vote totals. This commissioner gave Gulfside a perfect score of 100. His total for the Cherokee plan was 29. Those 71 points turned out to be the more than the 65-point difference in the total score.

Dustin McDaniel is the legal counsel for Cherokee Nation Businesses. In a letter to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, he addressed the situation with the statement:

“Despite the AG’s office expressly warning Commissioners not to engage in arbitrary, capricious or biased scoring, Commissioner Rice in fact single handedly overturned the score given by the rest of the Commission.”

He went on to add: “We anticipate both an administrative appeal and a request for injunctive relief from a court. This is a uniquely significant state decision. And such an egregious act of bad faith should not be allowed to control it.”

Rice has already denied any bias in his vote. He simply stated that Gulfside is a “better fit.”

Green and Carter are no strangers to the casino industry. They are seen as true pioneers of the Mississippi riverboat gaming industry. They were part of the first class to be voted into the Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association’s Hall of Fame. This took place in May of 2018.

The duo opened the View Casino in Mississippi in September of 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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Pope County, Arkansas Debates 2 Cherokee Nation Casino Proposals
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Pope County, Arkansas Debates 2 Cherokee Nation Casino Proposals
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The specifics for the Pope Country, two Cherokee Nation Casino Proposals, include a $254 million investment for two 500-room hotels.
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