Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen yesterday extended a temporary restraining order to prevent the state Racing Commission from issuing a license to open a casino in Pope County.

Griffen rejected a plea to dismiss the restraining order he issued earlier this month and extended the order by 30 days.


A casino opposition group, Citizens for a Better Pope County, filed a lawsuit last month arguing that the Racing Commission had broken its own rules by allowing a second application period for a permit in Pope County, authorized by a ballot initiative approved by state voters in 2018.

The lawsuit argues the rules allow a second application period only if no applications were received in the first application period. In this case, five applications were submitted, but all were rejected. In the second period, only the Cherokee tribe submitted an application that included endorsement by current local elected officials, as required by state Racing Commission rules.


The Racing Commission had a meeting set for Jan. 6 to determine whether to issue a license to the Cherokees. In an attempt to get the restraining order lifted, the commission voted last week to do away with the second application period.

This was not enough for Griffen, who ruled that the order still stood and extended it for an additional month.


The Racing Commission is set to meet again Jan. 25.