Company Urges Arkansas Commission To Follow Casino Amendment

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Racing Commission will be in breach of the state constitution if it doesn’t follow a recently passed amendment and issue four casino licenses, according to a company behind one of the proposed casinos.

Gulfside Casino Partnership LLC’s filing says it would have the right to sue if the racing commission’s current draft rules on casino operations are approved, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The company specifically takes issue with a rule that requires sitting officials to endorse casino proposals when the project application is filed. Gulfside wants to build a 600-room, $254 million hotel and casino in Russellville, and received endorsements from Pope County and Russellville officials before they left office in December.

The amendment permitting four casinos that was approved by voters in November requires projects to be endorsed by local officials, but doesn’t specify when endorsements must be submitted.

The endorsements of the Gulfside project would essentially be invalidated by the current draft rules, which were changed after residents raised concerns about the endorsements being made by outgoing officials. Current officials who took office last month said they are opposed to the Pope County casino and won’t endorse Gulfside’s proposal.

“Any rule promulgated by the Racing Commission which results in the issuance of less than four casino licenses is in direct conflict with Amendment 100 and is, therefore, unconstitutional,” said Casey Castleberry, Gulfside’s attorney.

The state Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees the commission, declined to comment and will “allow the courts to resolve” the issue, said Scott Hardin, a department spokesman.

The commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed rules Thursday in Little Rock. The commission must adopt, modify or reject the rules before sending them to a legislative committee for approval. Casino applications won’t be considered until the rules are in place.

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