Arkansas Supreme Court Denies Rehearing in Legends Resort and Casino Case

The Arkansas Supreme Court has rejected a petition from Legends Resort and Casino and Cherokee Nation Businesses, seeking a rehearing in a case where the court ruled that the Arkansas Racing Commission’s award of the Pope County casino license to the consortium violated Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution. This decision leaves the Commission free to determine how to resolve the matter.

The Court Decision Marks Significant Progress

The legal battle began in November 2021 when the Arkansas Racing Commission issued the Pope County casino license to the Legends/Cherokee consortium, nullifying the license previously awarded to Gulfside Casino Partnership in 2020. Gulfside challenged this decision, leading to several years of court cases and disputes that may significantly affect the state’s gambling sector.

Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution, approved by voters in November 2018, empowered the Arkansas Racing Commission to license four full-fledged casinos. However, in a 5-2 ruling on October 26, 2023, the state’s Supreme Court affirmed a decision by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox, stating that the Arkansas Racing Commission erred in the licensing process.

The Commission had awarded the license to two entities, Legends Resort and Casino and Cherokee Nation Businesses. The court ruled that only a single entity could hold a casino license. Legends failed to meet the licensing requirements stipulated in the Arkansas Constitution due to a lack of prior casino gaming experience, disqualifying the venue from offering gambling services.

Legends Resort and Casino’s Future Remains Uncertain

The court’s decision not to grant a rehearing further complicates the situation. The next step involves the Arkansas Racing Commission meeting to receive input from the attorney general’s office and the state Department of Finance and Administration to determine the best course of action that will cause minimal disruptions.

The Pope County casino license has been a source of contention, with billions of dollars collectively wagered at the state’s casinos annually. Trent Minner, administrator of the state Department of Finance and Administration’s Regulatory Division, which includes the Racing Commission, stated that the Commission would assess the situation in upcoming meetings.

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The high court’s decision effectively ended any form of litigation or questions remaining regarding the casino issue over the past five years.

Pope County Judge Ben Cross

The denial of the petition for rehearing by the Arkansas Supreme Court clears the way for the Arkansas Racing Commission to act. These ongoing legal proceedings and the involvement of different entities have underscored the challenges of implementing casino licensing in the state. The decision may prompt discussions on potential next steps and the impact on the casino licensin phl63 g process in Pope County.