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Hard Rock, 4 Others Bid for Pope County Casino License
Interested parties had up until 5 pm local time on May 30 to submit their applications. The Gulfside Casino Partnership, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Tri-Peaks Entertainment Group LLC (+ Hard Rock International), Robert and Ruth Kehl, and the Choctaw Nation are the five bidders now competing for the Pope County gaming license.
The Arkansas Racing Commission also received one application for a casino in Jefferson County, from the Downstream Development Authority. The regulator is set to consider all six applications on June 13.
State residents approved during last November’s referendum a constitutional amendment that legalized Las Vegas-style casino gambling on the territory of Arkansas. The amendment also allocated four casino licenses – two for gaming operations at the existing Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs and Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis, and two for the development of new gaming properties in Pope and Jefferson Counties. The two racetracks went live with casino gambling in early April.
No Letters of Support
The regulations crafted as part of the casino gambling expansion in Arkansas included a requirement that an interested casino developer must obtain letters of support from county leaders. The Jefferson County license application did come with letters of support, the Racing Commission said on Thursday. However, none of the bids for a casino in Pope County was accompanied by such letters.
The Gulfside Casino Partnership, which first announced its interest in building a gaming complex in Pope County, obtained letters of support by the county’s outgoing leaders. However, the Racing Commission’s rules mandate that the letters should be penned by current office holders.
Obtaining such letters could be a challenge, as the majority of county residents voted against the development of a casino during last year’s referendum.
The Warner Gaming/Hard Rock Bid
As mentioned above, Pope County has attracted gaming and hospitality giant Hard Rock International, among other bidders. The company announced its interest in the opportunity to build a casino resort in the newly liberalized Arkansas market earlier this spring. It has partnered Warner Gaming of Las Vegas to pursue the Pope County gaming license.
The two companies plan to build a Hard Rock-branded property, the first phase of which is expected to cost $230 million. If the Hard Rock/Warner Gaming bid is approved, Pope County will see the development of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Arkansas resort that will include a 300-room hotel and a 44,450-square-foot casino with 1,150 gaming machines, 28 table games, a poker room, a sports betting facility, and a mobile betting operation.
The property will also feature a Bo Jackson Sports Complex with indoor and outdoor baseball and softball fields, multi-purpose fields for soccer and lacrosse, and a number of other amenities. An RV park, 26,000 square feet of convention space, an 8,000-person outdoor amphitheater, and multiple dining outlets will, too, be among the resort’s facilities.
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May 31, 2019