Nation | Tribe: Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas
Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas received a state license in December 2021 to build and operate a casino in Russellville, Polk County. Arkansas. Legends Casino will include a casino, hotel, conference center, concert venue, outdoor waterpark and a RV park.
Cherokee Nation Business of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has partnered with Legends, a hospitality and stadium-management company founded by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, to build a casino hotel complex in Pope County named Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas.
The Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas will be built on 135 acres north of Interstate 40 on Nob Hill Road. The western boundry is Weir Road and the eastern boundry is Alaskan Trail.
CASINO - 50,000-sq-ft gaming floor with 1,200 slots, 21 table games and sportsbook
HOTEL - 200 luxury guest rooms and suites with pool, spa and fitness room
CONFERENCE CENTER - 15,000-sq-ft multipurpose space for meetings, entertainment and special functions
CONCERT VENUE - outdoor music and entertainment venue
WATERPARK - outdoor waterpark
RV PARK - RV and dog park with 100 RV spaces
$225 million construction cost
50,000-square-foot gaming floor
1,200 slot machines
32 table games
Grab & go
High-end sports bar
Outdoor music venue for concerts and live entertainment
Outdoor family water park
200 luxury rooms
Spa and fitness center
Hotel and pool rendering of Legends Resort and Casino Arkansas
15,000 square feet for entertainment, meetings and conferences with 1,000 person capacity.
RV and dog park with 100 RV spaces
February 21, 2022
The Choctaw Nation has joined the opposition to the Cherokee Nation's plan to build a commercial casino in Pope County, Arkansas. Last week the state Ethics Commission reported the Choctaw Nation donated $125,000 to Fair Play Arkansas, an anti-casino group in Pope County. The group is seeking signatures for a new constitutional amendment to remove Pope County from gambling.
Last year the Choctaw Nation was unsuccessful in bidding for the sole casino license allocated to Pope County. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma was the final winner of the competition and received a state license in December 2021 to build the Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas in Russellville, Arkansas.
The Choctaw Nation owns Choctaw Casino & Resort in Pocola, Oklahoma near Fort Smith, Arkansas. The distance is less than 100 miles from Russellville, AR.
January 12, 2022
The Pope County casino project is still on hold. Construction is not expected to begin until the remaining legal challenges are resolved. The CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) said last week:
"Our legal team is working to quickly dismiss all pending litigation. It is important to note that many aspects of timing are out of our hands and ultimately controlled by the courts. We remain hopeful that all will be resolved in the coming weeks and months so that we can break ground on Legends Resort & Casino as soon as possible."
- Chuck Garrett, CNB CEO
CNB is also waiting for an updated environmental traffic study before completing the purchase of the casino property which has been held in option since 2019.
November 14, 2021
The Arkansas Racing Commission voted 3-2 Friday to award the Pope County casino license to Cherokee Nations Businesses. The Cherokee will build Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas north of Interstate 40 on Nob Hill Road in Russellville, Arkansas.
The Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas project will be built in three phases. Phase 1 will construct a 50,000-square-foot casino with 1,200 slot machines, 21 table games and a sportsbook. The second phase will build a hotel with 200 guest rooms, a spa and a pool. The final phase will add a conference center, concert venue, outdoor waterpark and a RV park.
The Pope County casino licensing comes a month after the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled against the commission's previous decision to award the license to Gulfside Casino Partnership.
February 9, 2021
Last June the Arkansas Racing Commission awarded the sole casino license for Pope County to Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi. The selection was opposed by the Cherokee Nation Businesses, which promptly appealed the decision. The Cherokee had proposed a casino and hotel in Russellville to be named Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas.
This week the Arkansas Supreme Court put the Pope County casino license issue back into play by agreeing with a Cherokee Nation lawsuit against the Arkansas Racing Commission's selection of Gulfside Casino and sending the case back to a lower court.
The Arkansas Supreme Court released this statement of opinion:
"This case is part of ongoing litigation for the sole casino license available in Pope County. The narrow question before us is whether the circuit court erred in refusing to allow Cherokee Nation Businesses LLC, to intervene in litigation brought by Gulfside Casino Partnership against the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration and the Arkansas Racing Commission. We conclude that Cherokee was entitled to intervention as a matter of right and therefore reverse and remand the circuit court's decision.
"We conclude that Cherokee has a 'recognized interest' in the litigation based on its interest in the license, having its license application considered, and its contract with Pope County."
- Shawn A. Womack, Associate Justice
The legal counsel for Cherokee Nation Businesses responded with this statement:
"This means that, for now, the state statute and Arkansas Racing Commission rule that both expressly disqualify Gulfside as an applicant are back in effect.
"Thanks to today's ruling, the Arkansas Supreme Court will have the opportunity to hear that question. We will consider next steps in the other pending cases, but it would not make sense to litigate a temporary casino nor any of the Commission's past decisions so long as Gulfside is legally barred from filing an application in the first place."
- Dustin McDaniel, Legal Counsel
July 22, 2020
The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the ruling of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox that the Cherokee Business Nation was not a qualified applicant for the Pope County casino license. This reversal should require another review of the Pope County casino applicants by the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC).
The Cherokee Nation applied for the Pope County casino in partnership with Legends, a hospitality and stadium-management company. The partnership, named Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas, proposed a casino complex in Russellville, AR.
Judge Fox's rejected Legends Resort & Casino as a qualified applicant for "having no experience at operating a casino anywhere in the country ". The Cherokee Nation operates nine casinos in Oklahoma and has decades of casino experience. The Supreme Court agreed with the Cherokee saying "Legends is indeed a casino applicant as defined by the Arkansas Constitution amendment that voters passed during a 2018 ballot referendum."
April 25, 2020
The final selection of a casino applicant to build a casino in Pope County is in its last phase. The Arkansas Racing Commission will decide sometime after July 1 whether to license the Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas proposed by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in partnership with Legends, a hospitality and stadium-management company, or the River Valley Casino Resort proposed by Gulfside Casino Partners, a Mississippi casino group.
Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas
This $225 million resort and casino would be built on 135 acres north of Interstate 40 on Nob Hill Road and feature a 50,000-sq-ft gaming floor, 1,200 slots, 21 table games, a 2-room hotel, conference center, concert venue, waterpark and RV park.
River Valley Casino Resort Proposal
This $254 million casino resort would be built in Russellville and feature a 100,000 square-foot gaming floor, 2,100 slot machines, 100 table games and a 600-room hotel.
Last August the Cherokee Nation's Legends Casino application was selected by the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) over four other applicants including Gulfside. This prompted Gulfside to file a lawsuit against the ARC claiming it was the "only applicant for Pope County that timely complied with every requirement of Amendment 100."
On March 24 a Pulaski County circuit judge ruled the Gulfside application was improperly rejected and must be reconsidered by the ARC "on its merits".
In an ARC meeting following the court decision, the commission voted unanimously to accept both the Cherokee Nation application and the Gulfside application. The commission then contracted Jim Fox, a gambling consultant, to review the applications and make a recommendation on them before June 30.
The ARC is expected to meet in early July to review the evaluation report of the contractor and make a final selection for the Pope County casino.
February 21, 2020
This week Cherokee Nation Businesses released a study on the potential economic impact on Pope County and Northwest Arkansas by the tribe's proposed Legends Resort and Casino Arkansas in Russellville, AR.
The study by the Economic Impact Group (EIG) predicts the economic impact on that area will be $3.15 billion over 10 years.
ECONOMIC IMPACT FINDINGS OVER FIRST 10 YEARS
Direct employment of 1000 jobs
Jobs Supported 1750+ - 21000+ jobs
Employee Income $43.3 - $530 MM
Vendor Purchases from businesses $22.4 - $296 MM
$2 - $18.9 MM to Pope County Community Development Grant
$4.3 - $52.3 MM Taxes paid to Pope County
$100 - $945 K to Russellville Economic Development Alliance
Source: Legends Resort & Casino
In a news release, Chuck Garrett, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses, said: "In forming our plans for Legends Resort & Casino, we turned to a network of experts to help us understand how this project would impact the region's economy. It was fitting for us to engage this research through Dr. Russell Evans and EIG who are already very familiar with current CNB (Cherokee Nation Businesses) operations."
November 23, 2019
The Choctaw Nation submitted an application with the Arkansas Racing Commission for a license to build a commercial casino in Pope County. The submission was just hours before the 4:30PM final deadline for all applications, and three days after the Cherokee Nation amended its application
Pope County officials have endorsed the Cherokee Nation application. Under Arkansas Amendment 100, all applications for a new casino must include an endorsement of support from county officials.
The Choctaw application did not include documentation of local support. When asked why, Janie Dillard, a senior executive officer for the Choctaw Nation, replied in a written statement:
"The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has consistently advocated for a fair, open and transparent process. We hope that the state will take action to allow all proposals to receive fair consideration."
An additional explanation with more information should be expected soon.
UPDATE Nov. 21, 2019
The Russellville City Council approved a resolution endorsing the casino proposal submitted by Cherokee Nation Businesses.
October 11, 2019
The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is partnering with Legends, a hospitality company founded by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, has proposed building a $225 million casino named Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas in Russellville, Arkansas.
Last August the Legends proposal was selected by a local judge and quorum court over four other casino candidates for licensing by the Arkansas Racing Commission.
Last week the Russellville City Council announced it had received four casino applications prior to its deadline. The Council said it has rejected the Legends casino proposal on the basis of an incomplete application. The office of Mayor Richard Harris explained that a consent and release form required in the application was not signed.
Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Chuck Garrett responded with a different perspective. He said they have not actually applied for review by city officials and the Community Gaming Evaluation Committee. Rather, the company delivered a project overview to county and city officials, including the Russellville City Council, in an effort to "keep the community and elected officials informed."
August 11, 2019
The Cherokee Nation's casino application to build a casino in Russellville has been selected by a local judge and quorum court over four other candidates for Pope County's sole casino endorsement submitted to the Arkansas Racing Commission.
Cherokee Nation Businesses, the casino management company of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is partnering with Legends, a hospitality company founded by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
The letter of support was issued by Pope County Judge Ben Cross and the local Quorum Court. It is required at the time a casino license application is submitted to the Arkansas Racing Commission.
Five applications were previously submitted to the Arkansas Racing Commission for the sole casino license to be issued in Pope County. All five were rejected by for lacking a letter of support from local officials. The deadline was extended for applicants to work with the Pope County judge and the Quorum Court for endorsement.
The four casino proposals that were passed came from the Choctaw Nation, Gulfside Casino Partners, Hard Rock International & Warner Gaming partnership, and Robert and Ruth Kehl.
Hard Rock's reaction to losing the endorsement was stated in a letter released immediately afterwards:
"Remarkably, we were asked if we could submit our final offer after we were informed that a different operator will be selected. This clearly is not what we expected when we started this process."
"We have continually asked for a fair, open and transparent process and all of the applicants who have spent a significant amount of time and money deserve this, More importantly, the public deserves this."
The Cherokee Nation owns nine casinos in Oklahoma:
Cherokee Casino Fort Gibson
Cherokee Casino Grove
Cherokee Casino Roland
Cherokee Casino Sallisaw
Cherokee Casino South Coffeyville
Cherokee Casino Tahlequah
Cherokee Casino Ramona
Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs
Hard Rock Casino Tulsa
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