Cherokee Nation Businesses, the entity that hopes to win a casino permit in Pope County, is moving on a couple of fronts to achieve that objective.
Through its attorney, Bart Calhoun, the Cherokee casino operating entity, has asked Judge Wendell Griffen to dissolve his temporary restraining order preventing the state Racing Commission from considering the Cherokee application for a permit at a meeting scheduled earlier this week. He held it was filed in a second application period not authorized by commission rules. The commission could adopt rules allowing a second application period after it rejected five submitted in an original application period, but it must observe the administrative procedure act of the state in doing so, with public notice and comment.
The Cherokees also contend in a letter to Griffen that the Racing Commission rules allow consideration of applications after the initial period “for good cause shown.”
The letter asks for a hearing before the judge this week or next week to attempt to clarify this point. Meanwhile, it is making a case to the Commission that it could consider its application at a meeting Jan. 16. Said Calhoun’s letter to the judge:
Additionally, CNB has requested that the Arkansas Racing Commission, at a meeting scheduled for January 16, 2020, accept its application pursuant to Casino Gaming Rule 2.13.4(b), which authorizes the Commission to accept and consider applications submitted after the initial application period “for good cause shown.” I have attached hereto the letter requesting that this be added to the agenda. Upon review of the TRO, it is my understanding that the TRO only restricts the Commission from considering applications submitted pursuant to Casino Gaming Rule 2.13.4(d); i.e. the second application period. Plaintiffs’ Petition makes no allegation that it would be unlawful or in violation of state law or the Commission’s own rules to accept and consider an application pursuant to Casino Gaming Rule 2.13.4(b). However, out of an abundance of caution and deference to this Court, we request clarification that the TRO only enjoins the Commission from considering applications accepted pursuant to Casino Gaming Rule 2.13.4(d).
Other obstacles continue. A group opposing a casino in Pope County still has an appeal pending of a lawsuit contending there must, by ordinance approved by voters last November, be a countywide vote before the Quorum Court can legally endorse a casino proposal. It ignored that ordinance in endorsing the Cherokee bid, in return for a promise of $38 million in handouts to government and nonprofit entities.
Also, Gulfside Casino Partnership, a Mississippi business, has legal action pending contending it submitted a legal casino application because it was supported by the county judge who was in office when the casino amendment was approved in 2018, though he left office at the end of the year. The Racing Commission subsequently adopted a rule saying endorsements had to come from current local officials.
Gulfside was denied intervention in the lawsuit by casino opponents that led to Griffen’s ruling. It has its own lawsuit pending in Judge Tim Fox’s court, but he has resisted setting it for trial. The Cherokees this week appealed the denial of its intervention in that case as well.