AP NEWS

Racing Commission to consider Pope County casino in January

December 20, 2019 GMT

The Arkansas Racing Commission may decide on Jan. 6 whether to issue a casino license for Pope County.

Cherokee Nation Business and the Choctaw Nation, both based in Oklahoma, have applied for the license.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that commission attorney Byron Freeland told commissioners on Thursday that, under their rules, Jan. 6 is the deadline for a decision, but noted commissioners could consider waiving the rule because of two pending court cases.

“There is some legal controversy about the powers of the commission to waive rules, so there are a couple of decisions that could be made that day,” Freeland said.

Commission Chairman Alex Lieblong of Conway said he believes commissioners want the courts to rule before taking action.

One lawsuit is by Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi, whose license application was previously rejected.

The second is an appeal by the anti-casino group Citizens for a Better Pope County.

The group wants the state Supreme Court to overturn a circuit judge’s ruling that a county ordinance requiring voter approval before a casino license can be endorsed by local elected officials is unconstitutional.

Arkansas voters legalized casino gambling in 2018 at racetracks in Hot Springs and West Memphis and in Jefferson and Pope counties.