Needing nine votes to take up a proposal to repeal a 2018 ordinance requiring a local vote before county officials could approve a casino permit application, the Pope County Quorum Court last night could muster only eight of 11 members present from the 13-member county government body.

The Russellville Courier quotes County Judge Ben Cross as saying the ordinance would continue on the Quorum Court’s regular agenda until a vote could be held. The county’s attorney in lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the local referendum ordinance has agreed that it is an unconstitutional local addition to Amendment 100, which allowed new casinos in Jefferson and Pope County. He has recommended repeal.

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Cross said the legal action has cost the county more than $17,000 already. Reported The Courier:

“It is my responsibility not to waste money,” Cross said. “There is nothing tangible the county will get out of this.”

The Quorum Court has already voted to back a casino proposal from the Cherokee Nation. It has said it won’t be moved from that, though four other casino operators are seeking the opportunity. A separate lawsuit, in which the county is not a defendant, argues that a Mississippi casino operator got the needed local approval in 2018 in a letter from a lame-duck county judge who left the office at the end of the year.

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The Quorum Court heard from many speakers on the issue, pro and con. It included some back-and-forth on whether members of the Quorum Court had conflicts of interest in weighing casino proposals.

One Quorum Court member complained that they had been told to ignore the ordinance when they voted to back the Cherokee proposal, which came with $38 million in promised payments to government and nonprofit organizations.

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