Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB)’s Legends Resort & Casino in Pope , Arkansas, still remains on hold amid litigation. CNB has yet to schedule a groundbreaking for the $225 million property, expected to create more than 1,000 direct jobs.

According to Arkansas Business, CEO Chuck Garrett said that once work begins, it would take between 18 to 24 months to construct the venue. However, the proposed casino has been facing more than two years of local resistance to date.

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,” Garrett said. “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.”

According to the cited news source, the CEO said CNB has had “productive” initial meetings with city planners and is currently awaiting the results of environmental traffic studies. Once hurdles are cleared, the business would be able to move forward with the planned buying of the land it’s had options on since 2019.

But in order to pursue its casino development, CNB must first resolve pending litigation. This includes a lawsuit filed by Pope resident John “Cliff” Gooding, and a motion filed by rival Mississippi company Gulfside Casino Partnership.

Gulfside, which was initially awarded the Pope casino license by the Arkansas Racing Commission, filed a lawsuit in the Pulaski Circuit to issue a temporary restraining order halting any movement on the casino project. The company had lost the license after an Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in October its application was invalid because its letter of support was signed by the outgoing judge, instead of the current one.

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Both Goodin and Gulfside protest that while the applicant for the license was “Legends Resort & Casino LLC,” the license was awarded to “Cherokee Nation Businesses LLC/Legends Resort and Casino LLC.” They further claim Legends has no gaming experience, therefore making it an unqualified applicant for the Pope license.

According to the opposing parties, these circumstances mean the state’s gaming commission has not satisfied constitutional requirements in its awarding of a license to operate the Pope casino. Resolving the legal situation could take months and, should either lawsuit succeed, the entire licensing process could be reset.

But CNB is confident this will not be the case. According to Arkansas Business, Garrett said the casino is “100% owned and operated” by Cherokee Nation Businesses, and its casino license application states that CNB is the sole member of the Legends LLC. 

CNB has more than 30 years of experience, and operates 10 casinos through its hospitality division, Cherokee Nation Entertainment. Cherokee Nation Businesses calls Legends a “strategic consultant,” which has worked with professional sports teams, collegiate partners, live events and venues.

Garrett said CNB has not previously worked with Legends, but found partnering with the organization an attractive move because of the large size of the Pope project. Legends was co-founded by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and according to Garrett, teaming up with the business gives CNB access to “a talented team with local knowledge.”

A third source of conflict has been detected in the Fair Play for Arkansas committee, a group aiming to halt the casino project by working to put an initiative on the November ballot which would remove Pope County as a site allowed to have a casino following a constitutional amendment approved in 2018.

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While a majority of Pope County voters are credited with opposing said amendment, CNB said it would not be deterred by that effort and that should the casino be built, it would have a positive economic impact of more than $5 billion during its first 10 years.

Moreover, an agreement with Pope County Judge Ben Cross is to be signed, under which CNB would make a $38.8 million upfront investment to be distributed to areas and agencies determined by local officials. Additionally, $2 million would be donated per year to local organizations.

To be located off Hob Nob Road, northeast of downtown Russellville, on 130 acres just north of Interstate 40 between the Weir Road exit to the west and Bradley Cove Road exit to the east, Legends Resort & Casino calls for about 50,000 square feet of gaming space.

The casino part of the resort would feature up to 1,200 slot machines, and 32 table games. The venue is set to have a 200-room luxury hotel, with a resort pool and spa, plus dining establishments with a total of 600 seats.

Moreover, the casino resort is expected to feature 15,000 square feet of multipurpose space. This part of the venue would have a separate entrance from the casino in an effort “to attract family-style events,” according to Garrett.

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