- Legends Hospitality was founded in 2008 by Dallas Cowboys Owner, Jerry Jones, and New York Yankees Owner, George Steinbrenner.
- Legends Resort and Casino would be the first full-service casino in the state of Arkansas.
- Arkansas sports betting was approved by voters to take place in four gaming facilities in the state, including any proposed casino in Pope County.
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – Jerry Jones, the outspoken owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is one step closer to having his hospitality company build a casino in Pope County, Arkansas. It will be the first full-service casino in the state and would be able to host another Arkansas sportsbook.
Endorsed by local officials last week, Legends Resort & Casino will cost $225 million to build and will feature 1,200 slot machines, 200-room hotel, a music venue, and an outdoor water park. The venture comes in a partnership with Cherokee Nation Business, who will be in charge of casino operations.
However, even though city officials have approved the project, the decision does not come without controversy from local residents and competing businesses.
In November of 2018, voters approved a measure that would authorize Arkansas sports wagering at 4 gaming facilities in the state. Those included Southland Casino Racing, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, a proposed casino in Jefferson County, and one in Pope County.
The amendment passed with 54% of voters in the state supporting the construction of the casinos and allowing sports betting. Although, 60% of voters from Pope County opposed the amendment. Residents have been divided on the issue since then.
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Legends Resort and Casino would be located north of I-40 and about 20 miles south of Ozark National Forest. It would provide about 1,000 jobs to Pope County and Cherokee Nation Business will have to pay $38.8 million in economic development fees to nearby communities and nonprofits.
Competing operators felt as though they didn’t stand a chance.
Warner Gaming, who was hoping to build a Hard Rock Café themed casino, announced the county’s decision a day before it was made public via Facebook.
“We’ve been invited to submit a new proposal at a hastily called emergency meeting, and have been informed that the selection of an operator has already been made, without any kind of public deliberation,” wrote Hard Rock Arkansas.
The Arkansas Racing Commission will still have to give the final approval for the project, but a decision may be delayed. Nate Steel, a lawyer for the group who backed the casino amendment, warned that lawsuits might come.
“It’s not unanticipated that there would be a legal challenge when licenses are worth so much,” said Steel.
The project would take within 18 months to complete but a timeline for when it will begin construction has not been announced. With residents and competing businesses potentially opposing the project, it may be some time before legal sports betting makes its way to Pope County residents.
– In his career, Hasan has worked both local and state government positions—including the Attorney General’s Office in Florida. On top of being familiar with the legislative process, he has also been researching and writing on the legality of sports betting across the US. Outside of work you’ll most likely find him producing or playing music, playing sports, or working on creative writing projects. You’ll also catch him at Doak Campbell Stadium cheering on the Noles.