Arkansas Panel Approves Cherokee Nation Casino Plan

After years of delay, Cherokee Nation Entertainment had finally succeeded in its bid to build a casino in Arkansas.

CEN'S Proposed 50,000-hectare casino will feature a 200-room hotel, a dog park and a conference center.

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On Thursday, the Arkansas Racing Commission, through a unanimous vote, awarded the tribal group a license to construct their proposed casino in Pope County. The license will be the fourth and final casino permit to be issued under the state's amended gaming laws.

Following voter approval of a constitutional amendment in 2018, Pope County emerged as one of four designated sites for casino development, joining Jefferson, Garland, and Crittenden counties, which have since seen the launch of casinos.

Earlier this month, CNE submitted its casino proposal to the commission, the last step in the group's five-year effort to secure a casino license in the jurisdiction.

Legal Hurdles Leading to Casino Reapproval

While CNE had previously received approval in 2021, it was rendered null and void by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox, who ruled that the 2018 amendment did not grant the commission the power to issue a joint license to Legends and Cherokee Nation Businesses.

In 2023, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Judge, putting more legal stumbling blocks in the path of the Cherokee Nation. This also led to the Arkansas Racing Commission reopening the casino application process.

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CNE to Build $300m Casino Resort

With the approval now gotten, CNE can start construction and see its vision for a world-class casino become a reality.

The Cherokee Nation plans to build a 50,000-square-foot casino with a 200-room hotel, a state-of-the-art conference center, and an outdoor music venue. Other planned features include a resort pool, a luxury spa, a dog park, and a water park. The whole project is estimated to cost $300 million.

With the license in hand, we are prepared to finalize the remaining permitting and administrative processes so we can commence construction.

Chuck GarrettCEO of Cherokee Nation Entertainment

Signature Drive Threatens New License

While CNE has Pope County leaders' support and has seemingly overcome its legal challenges regarding the casino, there may still be one final hurdle to clear. A campaign supported by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is gathering signatures to place a ballot initiative before voters in November to potentially overturn the license granted to the CNE.

To successfully trigger a statewide vote on the casino project, the group must submit over 90,704 valid signatures from registered voters by July 5.


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