With no discussion from anyone, the Arkansas Racing Commission this morning speedily approved a series of motions to finalize its award of a casino permit in Pope County to the Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi.
Expect news soon of court action by Cherokee Nation Businesses to argue that Gulfside didn’t comply with the state Constitution’s requirement for approval by local elected officials. Gulfside argued that its endorsement by a county judge who had left office by the time the application period opened was sufficient. The Cherokee applicant also raised other objections to the Gulfside proposal.
Gulfside has indicated an interest in doing what the Quapaw Nation did after it won a casino permit in Pine Bluff — quickly open a temporary gambling annex as construction begins on the larger casino and hotel. (The Quapaws said in their initial application that they would open an annex at the outset. Gulfside raised the propsect of an annex long after applying for the permit.)
A variety of related legal actions are still pending.
Statement from Casey Castleberry, attorney for Gulfside:
“We are moving forward with our plans to build our first-class River Valley Casino Resort, an entertainment and economic destination for Russellville, Pope County and the state.”
Comment from Cherokee Nation by their attorney Dustin McDaniel:
“Our Administrative Procedures Act appeal will be filed soon, and it will highlight the points addressed in the Objections and Orders entered. The Commission violated its own rules governing acceptance and scoring of license applications, disregarded the analysis of its outside consultant who said that Legends was the superior applicant in every respect, unlawfully altered the scores rendered by its review panel, and overlooked substantial evidence that Gulfside and its owners intentionally withheld evidence of their past bankruptcies, criminal investigations, and ineligibility for licensure in Mississippi.”
The Nation also was asked about Commissioner Butch Rice’s presence at the meeting today before a voice vote on all matters. Rice is the commissioner whose lopsided score in favor of Gulfside tilted the scoring in its favor and caused a furor that led to a commission finding that his score reflected bias. The Cherokee Nation said the Commission’s finding of bias on Rice’s part should have precluded his scoring.
A Cherokee spokesman said:
“The presence of Commissioner Rice at today’s meeting was surprising and inappropriate. We have no way of knowing whether he attempted to vote, as they were all voice votes.”
A spokesman said later that Rice was present but did not participate in discussion or vote