Johnson Co. Leaders Hope For Casino That Was Planned For Pope Co.

JOHNSON COUNTY (KTHV) —The Arkansas Racing Commission has approved a rule that would require a letter of support for a casino from the current county judge and mayor.

Johnson County leaders are hopeful for a casino that was planned to be built in Pope County. Residents in Pope County have voiced their concerns about a casino being built in the county.

The commission is meeting Thursday to discuss the fourth casino’s future.

Nearly 200 public comments were submitted to the commission and about 95 percent of those came from Pope County residents.

Judge Herman Houston hopes the commission will allow a casino in Johnson County. At the meeting, he said he wants it because it will bring jobs to the county.

“I don’t drink and I don’t gamble, but when you’re county judge your represent the people,” Houston said.

Before leaving his position as Pope County judge, Jim Ed Gibson announced a deal with a casino operator from Mississippi.

State Representative Aaron Pilkington said at the meeting that he would propose legislation that would change the amendment and replace Pope County with Johnson. But that will need two-thirds support in the Arkansas House and Senate.

An attorney for Gulfside Casino is arguing that the commission is legally required to issue a casino license for Pope County based on how the amendment is written.

The commission also adopted a rule that would remove election betting. Each casino will have to go a step further by submitting their sports betting program for the commission to approve.

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