Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen declined Wednesday to dismiss a challenge to the issuance of a casino permit to Legends Resort in Pople County.
He said a Pope County man, Cliff Goodin, had standing to sue and that he’d raised a question that should be heard about whether the Racing Commission’s issuance of a license for the casino violated Amendment 100, which authorized four casinos in the state.
Goodin’s primary claim rests on something of a technicality — that the corporate entity created to own the casino had no casino experience, as required. But it is the property of the Cherokee Nation’s business enterprise, which has extensive casino experience. The judge noted that the Cherokee business enterprise was not the applicant on the Legends’ application to the Commission. Legends and the Racing Commission had asked that the case be dismissed. The judge said Goodin had raised a constitutional question that must be decided.
And so the interminable controversy drags on. The Cherokees have spent $35 million acquiring land and have promised local governments and agencies almost $40 million in benefits when the casino is built.
UPDATE: A statement from the Cherokees:’
“We feel confident that when the court considers the issue of whether Cherokee Nation Businesses/Legends Resort & Casino has the required experience, they will find that our three decades in hospitality and gaming more than satisfies the requirements. While unfortunate, Judge Griffen’s decision brings nothing but added delay. It does not alter the end result – the realization of a premier casino resort in Pope County, Legends Resort & Casino, that will serve as an economic anchor for the region and the state.” – Chuck Garrett, CEO, Cherokee Nation Businesses
“The Constitution requires that the Arkansas Racing Commission require applicants to ‘demonstrate experience’ in casino gaming. Our application laid out decades of experience, and we participated in a lengthy public interview process in which we were questioned about our experience. Moreover, the Racing Commission hired an expert to evaluate our experience, and he gave us a superior score. We are confident that we will ultimately prevail in this litigation.” – Dustin McDaniel, legal counsel for Cherokee Nation Businesses