Arkansas Racing Commission Rejects Pope County Casino License Appeal

  • Cherokee Nation Businesses appealed the June 18 awarding of the Pope County casino license
  • The Arkansas Racing Commission rejected the appeal by a 3-2 vote
  • CNB claimed that Gulfside Casino Partnership was deceitful during the application process
Pen signing document stamped "REJECTED"
The Arkansas Racing Commission has denied Cherokee Nation Businesses’ appeal of the Pope County casino license decision, which went in favor of the Gulfside Casino Partnership. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Tight vote

The Arkansas Racing Commission has rejected an appeal from the Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) over the awarding of the Pope County casino license to the Gulfside Casino Partnership.

On Thursday, CNB put forth its case that Gulfside acted in a deceitful manner during the application process and as a result should not be given the license.

none of the commissioners would re-score their applications

The commission voted 3-2 to deny the appeal; none of the commissioners would re-score their applications. Commission vice-chairman Mark Lamberth led the appeal proceedings because commission chairman Alex Lieblong recused himself from the process after allegations of bias in the original scoring process arose.

The appeal allegations

CNB attorney Dustin McDaniel attacked the business dealings of Gulfside, alleging a pattern of bankruptcy issues dating back many years. McDaniel told the commission: “Your scores on the 18th were based on misleading, incorrect, false, fraudulent information that was presented to you specifically with the purpose of deceiving you and hoping that you didn’t dig into it, look into it, find out about it until later.”

Gulfside was awarded the casino license on June 18. CNB quickly appealed the decision, saying that if Gulfside was shown to be deceitful during the application process, it should not get the license.

The claims from CNB were refuted for the most part by Gulfside’s attorney Casey Castleberry. He outlined the circumstances of the past bankruptcy issues and said that the company stands by every application that it submitted relating to the casino license application process.

Castleberry said: “I don’t think my competitor is in much of a position to complain, they’re on their third application, apparently fourth application, in which there have been changes made along the way.”

Reaction to the decision

Co-owner of Gulfside Terry Green issued a statement after the announcement of the appeal denial. He thanked the Racing Commission for its support and said that the company looks forward to opening its casino resort in Russellville, Pope County.

Gulfside currently operates the Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport, Mississippi and plans to invest about $224m into the Pope County casino project. The development process is expected to take about two years. 

CNB is looking at other legal options it can use to fight the appeal. McDaniel issued a scathing statement relating to the commission’s decision. He spoke about the “mountain of proof” showing the alleged inaccurate and misleading statements that Green had made relating to Gulfside’s finances and experience. 

It will take me a while to wrap my head around that.”

McDaniel also noted that Green admitted that his past legal and financial issues meant that he had been ineligible for a four-year period to hold a gaming license in Mississippi. McDaniel said: “Yet, the Commission declined to re-score the applications, denied our appeal by a 3-2 vote, and gave Gulfside the license in spite of everything. It will take me a while to wrap my head around that.”