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Opposition group forms against efforts to revoke Pope County’s casino license


Investing in Arkansas, a Cherokee-backed group, formed to oppose a proposed constitutional amendment that aims to revoke Pope County’s controversial casino license. This development adds a new layer to the ongoing legal battle initiated by the Choctaw Nation and the Cherokee Nation over the profitable gaming license.

Jennifer McGill of Russellville leads Investing in Arkansas as chairman, while Cale Turner of Little Rock is the committee’s treasurer. The financial support for this group comes from Cherokee Nation Entertainment.

On March 20, Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin approved a proposed constitutional amendment, allowing supporters of the initiative, known as Local Voters in Charge, to collect the necessary 90,000 signatures to place the issue on the November ballot.

The proposed amendment does not only aim to delete the provision on casino licenses Pope Province but also to require the quorum court in each county where a casino is proposed to call a special election. This election would determine whether the local electorate approves the casino before the Arkansas Racing Commission or other governing body can accept any casino license applications for that county.

In 2018, Arkansas voters passed Amendment 100, creating the law Arkansas Casino Gaming Amendment. This amendment directed the Racing Commission to grant casino licenses to the Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs, Southland Racing Corporation in West Memphis, and entities in Pope County and Jefferson County. Currently, casinos operate in three counties: Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs, Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis and Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff.

On January 11, the Arkansas Supreme Court decided not to reconsider a lower court ruling that blocked the award of a Pope County casino license to Cherokee Nation Businesses. This decision returned the licensing process to the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC).

Thousands of jobs at stake

In his announcement on May 14 Investing in Arkansas criticized the proposed constitutional amendment, arguing that it could prevent the creation of thousands of jobs and the generation of millions in tax revenue. The group claims efforts to hinder the casino have already cost state and local governments about $100 million in tax revenue since 2019.

“Don’t be fooled by this out-of-state ploy to repeal the casino measure,” he said Natalie Ghidotti, vice chairman of Investing in Arkansas, in a statement cited by Talk Business & Politics. “This group claims its efforts are about local choice, but in reality their proposal would completely eliminate the casino license in Pope County, going against the will of Arkansas voters. This effort to revoke Pope County’s casino license is being driven by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, which controls a competing casino just across the state line near Fort Smith. Their mission is to keep Arkansas tourism and tax dollars flowing across state lines and into their pockets.”

The original proposal for the Cherokee Nation casino included plans for a $225 million facility with 50,000 square feet of gaming space with 1,200 slot machines and 32 table games, a sportsbook in an upscale sports bar, a 200-room luxury hotel, a resort-style pool, spa and fitness center, 15,000 square feet of mixed-use conference and entertainment space for 1,000 people, and an outdoor water park and music venue.

In response to the founding of Investing in Arkansas, Local voters are in charge issued their own statement emphasizing the importance of local decision-making: “One thing we should all agree on is that casinos should not be forced into communities that don’t want them – our proposal simply protects all communities in Arkansas from having such casinos. happens to them. Our opponents want to deprive local voters of the final say on this issue. Some communities may want a casino, and some may not, but we trust local voters to decide what’s best for their community, and that’s all our amendment does: local voters are in charge. If our opponents are confident in the benefits of their casinos and the local support for them, why are they opposed to giving local voters the final say?”

Because the debate about the Pope County Casino License Both parties remain firmly entrenched in their positions, underscoring the complex nature of this issue and the high stakes for Arkansas’ future.