Government officials in Arkansas have endorsed a proposal from Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones to build a $225 million casino in Pope County.
Jones owns an entertainment company named Legends Hospitality, which partnered with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma on the casino proposal. The initial plans for Legends Resort & Casino would include 1,200 slot machines, a 200-room hotel, an outdoor water park, and a music venue, according to a report from the Dallas Morning News.
If built, the casino operations will be handled by the Cherokee Nation and Legends will take care of everything non-gambling related.
Jones’ company, which was founded in 2008 with late Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner to manage services at Cowboys Stadium and Yankee Stadium, was competing with five other operators who were seeking approval from the state to land the fourth and final Arkansas gaming license.
Competitors, however, are claiming that Legends’ proposal was chosen before all offers were given a fair shot at the license.
Warner Gaming, a Las Vegas-based gaming company, was one of the operators who was denied a shot at a license by the state for a Hard Rock Café-themed hotel and casino. The company posted on their Facebook page that they were told that Legends was already chosen before they presented their proposal.
“We’ve been invited to submit a new proposal at a hastily called emergency meeting, and have been informed that the selection of an operator has already been made, without any kind of public deliberation,” the post said.
The endorsement by government officials of the Legends proposal is an important part of the process because government recommendations are a prerequisite to obtaining a license. The state denied five proposals for casinos in May, citing the lack of an endorsement.
Gulfside Casino Partnership, one of those five companies receiving a rejection letter, is going to appeal the decision, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazzette is reporting. The company says that its proposal included recommendations from officials who are no longer serving.
The first two casino licenses were awarded in March to Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs and Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis. The third was given to the Quapaw Nation, who broke ground on a $350 million casino resort a few weeks ago in Pine Bluff.
The recipient of the final license will put its casino in Russellville.
Nate Steel, a lawyer for the group that supported the ballot initiative, told the Morning News that the controversy regarding the final license will likely be settled in court.
“It’s not unanticipated that there would be a legal challenge when licenses are worth so much,” said Steel.