CASINO PROPOSAL: From Mississippi firm.

CASINO PROPOSAL: From Mississippi firm.

Here’s another announcement from a casino operator hoping to persuade Pope County to invite them to open a casino there under the new casino amendment.

Warner Gaming, promising a Hard Rock casino resort, began its public relations campaign yesterday. Today it’s the Gulfside Casino Partnership of Mississippi, which will hold a “meet and greet” from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Courtyard by Marriott to talk about their proposed $250 million River Valley Casino Resort, a plan they’d outlined previously.

All are touting economic benefits of a tourist attraction, from construction to permanent jobs. Gulfside has taken a page from the Oaklawn playbook and promised charitable contributions — $1 million a year to local schools for 20 years.


Public relations are key. The amendment requires an endorsement by local officials for a successful casino application. None has yet been granted by current officeholders. It’s not yet clear if the Racing Commission will even consider applications without an endorsement from elected officials.

Another obstacle is a new county ordinance that requires a local vote on a casino, a law that several have said is an unconstitutional addition to the amendment. Pope County voters said they didn’t want to expand casinos in Arkansas.

Will the offer of jobs, charity and bright lights change their thinking?:

Who all will apply? Representatives of the Cherokee tribe have been meeting with local officials and have an option on 100 acres on I-40 for a casino. They’ve also been buying newspaper ads outlining their plans for community development.

Might the Choctaw tribe, also an Oklahoma casino operator, be in the mix?

Interesting wrinkle: The Cherokee tribe occupies a Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa. Can Warner Gaming guarantee it can line up a Hard Rock franchise in relatively nearby Russellville?


Here’s one theory on what will happen. The county judge continues to remain resolute against issuing an endorsement. He’s key because proposed sites are outside Russellville. The Quorum Court could vote to approve an application but currently isn’t expected to do so.  Thus, potential operators will either not file applications or file them without endorsement from local officials. Gulfside might attempt to submit an application with the letter written last year by the lame-duck county judge. It wouldn’t likely be approved given rules adopted since then requiring approval of current officeholders, but it might set up a lawsuit.Or who knows?