The Cherokee Nation has joined the groups touting big plans for a Pope County casino, presuming one is allowed there.

The nation’s business arm announced a partnership with Legends, a hospitality venture formed in 2008 by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.


A Cherokee news release said that the tribe, with Legends, will “deliver a world-class entertainment complex consistent with other venues within the Legends portfolio.” Their pitch includes a promise to “monetize” non-casino parts of the development. Said the release:

The location for the casino development is planned for Russellville, Arkansas, on approximately 135 acres off Interstate 40 along Nob Hill Road, between Weir Road on the west and Alaskan Trail on the east. The project will be completed in phases: The first phase includes Legends’ designs and elements for the casino, hotel and curated culinary experience. Phase two will focus on incorporating lifestyle and entertainment amenities, with an emphasis on creating family-friendly entertainment options. The final phase will include additional retail, dining and hotel concepts.


Stephen Jones, executive vice president, CEO and director of Player Personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, said, “We are excited to have Legends involved in the process. It is very important to us because of the family history and connection we have to Arkansas. Legends was founded on the principle of creating a superior guest experience during game day, and we look forward to bringing that expertise to the state of Arkansas.”

A Mississippi casino operator, an Iowa casino operator, a Nevada casino operator touting a deal with Hard Rock Casinos and the Choctaw tribe, which operates a casino just across the border from Oklahoma have also applied for Pope County casino permit under the 2018 constitutional amendment expanding casino gambling in Arkansas. None has approval of current elected officials in Pope County or Russellville, as the rules of the Arkansas Racing Commission require. One applicant has threatened to sue because it had endorsements from local officials who left office before the rules took effect. A local ordinance, not yet tested in court, requires a local vote before a local official may approve a permit.


The county’s voters opposed the casino amendment. All the applicants have been making local public relations efforts about the economic and charitable benefits of a casino and competing to top each other with grandeur of plans and expanse of related developments.