The Cherokee Nation filed an emergency pleading today with the Arkansas Supreme Court to set aside a ruling last week by Circuit Judge Tim Fox that seemed to put a Mississippi casino operator in the driver’s seat on winning a permit to operate a casino in Pope County.

Fox declined a petition by Gulfside Casino Partnership to hold the state Racing Commission for not granting it the casino permit.

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But Fox also declared that the competitor for the permit, the Cherokee Nation doing business as Legends Resort and Casino, wasn’t qualified for the permit under terms of the Constitution. His reasoning was that the Legends LLC, set up to apply for the permit, had no experience in the casino business. The Cherokee Nation has 30 years in the business and it notes in its filing that the Quapaw tribe, also an experienced casino operator, got a permit in Jefferson County after setting up a new LLC to hold the permit.

You can read the legal arguments here. 

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It grows more convoluted by the day, including the fact that the Racing Commission on June 22 revised its original scoring of the two applications to remove the score of a commissioner whose rating was so lopsided it was deemed evidence of bias for Gulfside. That put the Cherokee application on top.

Today’s pleadings include a motion for an expedited hearing and stay of the lower court order. Dustin McDaniel, attorney for the Cherokee Nation, also issued a prepared statement:

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“The Judge was correct to deny Gulfside’s motion, but incorrect to make any ruling regarding applicant qualifications. Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) is following the same Rules used by the license holder in Jefferson County, and the Racing Commission can evaluate the qualifications of CNB’s overall company group and its decades of experience in the gaming industry. A writ of certiorari and stay is prudent to prevent the Judge’s erroneous order from impacting the casino licensure process. In any event, the next step for the Racing Commission is to adjust the scores per their vote on June 22 and issue new letters.”