Cherokee Nation Entertainment Secures Final Arkansas Casino License

Back Cherokee Nation Entertainment Secures Final Arkansas Casino License

The Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) recently concluded a lengthy legal battle by awarding Cherokee Nation Entertainment (CNE) the final casino license for Pope County. This decision, which came after multiple lawsuits and regulatory challenges, signifies a pivotal moment in Arkansas' gaming industry.

The ARC's unanimous vote on June 27 followed a thorough evaluation of CNE's application, including interviews with Cherokee representatives. This milestone concludes a contentious process that has spanned several years since Arkansas voters approved Amendment 100 in 2018, allowing for the establishment of four casinos in the state.

Background on Amendment 100

Amendment 100 was a significant legislative measure passed by Arkansas voters, paving the way for expanded casino gaming. It designated specific counties where casinos could be built, including Pope County, which became the center of legal disputes and controversies.

Initially, Gulfside Casino Partnership secured the Pope County license, but legal challenges and requirements for local endorsements resulted in delays and eventually led to the reopening of the application process. CNE emerged as the sole applicant considered by the ARC after Gulfside's submission was deemed incomplete.

With the casino license in hand, Cherokee Nation Entertainment plans to develop a comprehensive entertainment complex in Pope County. The proposed 50,000-square-foot facility will feature an array of amenities, including 1,200 slot machines, 32 table games, a poker room, and a sportsbook. Additionally, the project includes plans for a 200-room hotel, a conference center, and recreational areas such as an outdoor music venue, water park, RV park, and dog park.

Chuck Garrett, CEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment, expressed readiness to proceed with the project, emphasizing the completion of permitting and administrative processes in preparation for construction. The anticipated timeline aims for the casino to open within the next 18 months, pending regulatory approvals and logistical arrangements.

Legal and Regulatory Challenges

The path to securing the Pope County casino license has been fraught with legal challenges and regulatory scrutiny. Following a ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court that nullified CNE's initial license, the ARC was mandated to reevaluate applications. The Commission's latest decision represents a resolution to these legal complexities, aligning with the constitutional framework established by Amendment 100.

Moving forward, Cherokee Nation Entertainment will collaborate closely with regulatory authorities to ensure compliance with all stipulations and standards. The ARC will monitor progress closely, overseeing the project's implementation and adherence to operational guidelines.

Despite the ARC's decision, opposition groups, notably backed by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, continue efforts to challenge the issuance of the Pope County casino license. These groups aim to gather sufficient voter signatures to place a measure on the November ballot, potentially impacting the project's future.

Proponents of the casino cite economic benefits and job creation as significant advantages for Pope County and the broader Arkansas economy. The development is expected to generate revenue, attract tourism, and provide employment opportunities, contributing to local economic growth and infrastructure enhancement.

The awarding of the final casino license to Cherokee Nation Entertainment by the Arkansas Racing Commission marks a pivotal moment in the state's gaming industry. This decision represents the culmination of legal battles and regulatory hurdles, paving the way for significant economic development and entertainment offerings in Pope County. As Cherokee Nation Entertainment moves forward with its plans, stakeholders will continue to navigate legal challenges and community considerations, ensuring the project's alignment with regulatory requirements and community interests.


''Arkansas panel awards Cherokee Nation Entertainment a license to build casino'', June 28, 2024.

''Final Arkansas gaming license awarded to CNE'',, July 01, 2024.

“The project would include a water park, RV and dog park”

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