Cherokees Purchase Arkansas Casino Acreage

Following the rejection of an amendment removing Pope County, Arkansas as a casino site, Cherokee Nation Business spent $35 million on land where it plans to build its $225 million Legends Resort & Casino (l.).

Cherokees Purchase Arkansas Casino Acreage

Cherokee Nation Business of Catoosa, Oklahoma recently acquired tracts of land valued at $35 million from 12 sellers in Pope County, Arkansas, where it plans to build the $225 million Legends Resort

& Casino, according to CNB public relations representative Allison Burum.

CNB is moving forward with Legends now that a proposed constitutional amendment was struck from the November 8 ballot. The amendment would have removed Pope County as one of four approved Arkansas sites for casino gambling.

The Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners rejected the ballot title and Fair Play for Arkansas 2022, the group backing the amendment, failed to turn in the required number of voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. Fair Play had raised more than $3.8 million for the initiative, all donated by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, whose Choctaw Casino-Resort in Pocola is located 85 miles from Russellville.

The Arkansas Tourism Alliance ran a campaign against Fair Play’s efforts, raising $1.3 million primarily from CNB.

Regarding the end of the ballot issue, CNB Chief Executive Officer Chuck Garrett said, “That obviously was an important hurdle for us to overcome, and we do believe this issue is put to bed. It has been a lot of work.” CNB, which has operated casinos in eastern Oklahoma for decades, recently announced it planned to purchase the Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, Mississippi for $450 million.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, an Arkansas native, founded Legends with the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in 2008. Jones remained a 20 percent owner after San Francisco investment firm Sixth Street Partners bought a 51 percent stake in the company in 2020.

Legal issues still remain over the Arkansas Racing Commission’s 3-2 vote in November 2021, reversing its 2020 decision to give the Pope County casino license to Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi.

Gulfside sued the commission in Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox’s court, and Citizens for a Better Pope County sued the commission in Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen’s court. Griffen is expected to rule on the case on September 16. Burum said any ruling will be appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Garrett said he expected the courts would “see through attempts to delay and confuse matters.”

Legends Resort & Casino will offer 1,200 slots and 32 table games, plus a 200-room hotel and numerous dining options. The county expects to receive tax revenue annual tax payments starting at $4.3 million as well as $2 million in annual donations from Legends. The project will create about 1,750 jobs and have an economic impact of $3.5 billion over 10 years.