Arkansas High Court Allows Commission To Issue Casino Permit

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court will not prohibit the Racing Commission from issuing a casino license to applicants in one county after a company whose license was rejected called for an intervention.

Voters legalized casino gambling in 2018 at racetracks in Hot Springs and West Memphis and at new sites in Jefferson and Pope counties.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the commission is allowed to issue a license in Pope County, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

A Pulaski County circuit judge will also not be required to expedite a case brought by a Mississippi gaming operator that alleges it had the only valid claim to the license. Gulfside Casino Partnership wanted the state Supreme Court to intervene after judges in both counties volleyed the company’s lawsuit against the commission in an argument over venue.

The ruling came a week ahead of a scheduled commission meeting at which the regulators will consider whether to issue a license or stall the decision further.

“The Jan. 6 meeting will proceed as planned as no court has issued an injunction that would affect this event,” said Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees the commission.

Gulfside’s lawyer, Casey Castleberry, have not returned the newspaper’s requests for comment.

Gulfside initially sued the commission on Aug. 15 after the commission denied its appeal over the rejected license.

In June, the commission rejected all five applicants due to them not having endorsements by current local officials. Other than Gulfside, the applicants included Cherokee Nation Businesses of Oklahoma, Kehl Management of Iowa, Warner Gaming of Nevada and Choctaw Nation Division of Commerce of Oklahoma.

The commission instead issued a gaming license to Quapaw Nation to construct an 80,000-square-foot (7,430-square-meter) casino resort in Pine Bluff. That Jefferson County project is slated to be open for business in June.

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