A Freedom of Information Act request from Pope County unearthed the evaluation of competing casino permit proposals by an outside consultant: His pick, the Cherokee Nation/Legends resort application over that of Gulfside Casino Partnership.
I’m seeking comments from the competing parties, who have a variety of requests pending before both the state Racing Commission, which will decide on who gets a permit for a casino in Pope County, and a variety of court cases.
It ain’t over until it’s over. Just remember that.
Fox and Fox Consulting’s brief report notes that the Cherokee Nation operates more casinos; that it will self-fund its casino rather than borrow money; that it proposed a bigger initial investment ($263 million to as much as $190 million, though Gulfside upped its ante during a recent hearing), and the Cherokees anticipated opening sooner. Gulfside, I believe, would contest some of these findings.
Note he said LLCs are not uncommon for casino permits. Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled Cherokee Nation ineligible because it created an LLC to ask for the permit and the LLC had no previous casino experience. The Supreme Court set that ruling aside, saying Fox didn’t have jurisdiction on that question. Gulfside continues to argue it is the only legitimate applicant because it was the only application with approval from local officials when applications were first filed. Those officials were no longer in office at the time, but were when voters approved an amendment expanding casino gambling in Arkansas to Pope and Jefferson Counties, where a Quapaw-owned casino is already in operation.
UPDATE: From Cherokee Nation
“The Commission’s expert concluded that Legends Resort & Casino is the superior applicant in all four scoring categories. It is unfortunate that the Commissioners didn’t have the benefit of access to this report prior to awarding scores to each applicant on June 18, but we will offer it as part of the record and hope that it is helpful when the Commission meets next.” – Dustin McDaniel, legal counsel for Cherokee Nation Businesses
ALSO: Fox was paid $150,000 by the Racing Commission. He reviewed the applications and suggested the point system the Commission used to evaluate the proposals. Initially, the Commission favored Gulfside. It has since disallowed the score of one commissioner for scoring so disproportionate it appeared biased, but it has not yet issued a final decision on a permit application.