• Casino gaming and sports betting were both legalized when Amendment 100 was approved on the 2018 Arkansas Ballot.
  • Gulfside Casino is the only casino operator to have applied to the Arkansas Racing and Gaming Commission with an endorsement from Pope County officials.
  • The Arkansas Racing and Gaming Commission rejected Gulfside’s casino construction application on June 13.

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – The next step in constructing a new casino in Pope County takes place on Wednesday as Gulfside Casino looks to appeal their rejection by the Arkansas Racing and Gaming Commission.

The Commission denied their submission to build a casino on June 13, despite being the only operator out of the five that applied to provide a letter of support from local officials.

Pope County residents have been torn on the issue of a new casino since the passing of Amendment 100 in November of 2018. The Amendment allows expanded gambling and Arkansas sportsbooks to be built in existing casinos in West Memphis and Hot Springs.

It also allows casinos to be built in Jefferson and Pope County.

The Amendment passed with 54% of voters in Arkansas approving the measure, however, 60% of voters in Pope County specifically voted against Amendment.

The original rules of the Arkansas Racing and Gaming Commission only required that a letter be submitted to the agency with the support of local officials and not the county as a whole.

But, Pope County voters approved an ordinance during the passing of Amendment 100 that required that any casino endorsement made by local officials be done so with voter approval.

In December of 2018, former county judge of Pope County, Jim Ed Gibson and former Mayor of Russellville, Randy Horton, both issued letters of support for Gulfside Casino.

The Commission changed the rules earlier this year to require that only current sitting officials’ letters would be used in the submission process. It is because of this that Gulfside’s attorney has threatened legal action if the Commission does not accept its previous state official endorsements.

As for Gulfside’s chances to receive the backing of current Pope County Judge, Ben Cross, those chances may be slim.

“Nothing has changed,” said Cross. “Representatives from all five casinos make it to town on a regular basis. They revolve in and revolve out. It will take an election to see what the people of Pop County want before I make any moves on my part.”

The appeal process on Wednesday is expected to be one of many to come from casino operators that hope to build a gaming facility with legal sports betting on site in Pope County.

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