Gulfside Casino Partnership Files Lawsuit Against Cherokee Nation Businesses

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Gulfside Casino Partnership Files Lawsuit Against Cherokee Nation Businesses

Gulfside Casino Partnership filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in Pulaski County Circuit Court against Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB), citing coercion and illegal use of practices to secure a casino license.

Other named defendants in the case include Cherokee Nation Entertainment, Pope County Judge Ben Cross, the Pope County Quorum Court, and the Arkansas Racing Commission.

Gulfside Casino Partnership argues Cherokee Nation Businesses’ Economic Development Agreement, letters are invalid

The Arkansas Racing Commission last week awarded the license to Cherokee Nation Entertainment, the tribe’s entertainment and gaming company. It was the state’s fourth and final casino license.

Additionally, Gulfside Casino Partnership said the regulations are being met to apply for the license.

Although the Mississippi-based casino applied for the Pope County casino gaming license in 2019, its award was met and reversed by the Arkansas Supreme Court due to contention with the issuance of the letter by the Pope County Judge.

In the complaint, Gulfside Casino addressed the contract, stating that the “Economic Development Agreement” (CNB EDA) would be constructed to pay an “economic development fee” to towns and cities within Pope County, other governmental entities, and specific private and public institutions and entities.

The CNB EDA puts officials in the position that if they support another proposal, “Pope County is in jeopardy of receiving nothing if CNB or its designee is ultimately awarded the license,” the complaint states.

CNB EDA binds County Judge Ben Cross to issue a letter of support, according to the complaint

According to the lawsuit, the CNB EDA binds County Judge Ben Cross to issue a letter of support. It also requires Pope County Quorum Court to issue a resolution of support for a Pope County casino gaming license exclusively to CNB or an entity designated by CNB in exchange for cash payments to the county and other entities.

The lawsuit claims Gulfside’s rights, status, and legal obligations are diminished by the CNB EDA.

“The discretion of the County Judge and Quorum Court cannot be bought, to the exclusion of all other interested operators, with funds denominated ‘Economic Development’ funds; thus, the CNB EDA, the letter of support, and the resolution of support issued in conformity with it are invalid and should be so declared,” the lawsuit says.

According to Johnson v. Board of Commissioners, 135 S.E. 618, 621 (N.C. 1926), the lawsuit states, “Such officials cannot bind themselves by such agreements or contracts, nor can they be held bound by the courts.”

Because the CNB EDA is void against public policy, the letters and support issued are also void, per the lawsuit.

CNB EDA is an effort to coerce county officials, the lawsuit alleges

The lawsuit states, “Simply stated, the CNB EDA is an effort to coerce county officials to exercise a constitutional duty in a particular way through the payment of money for the public benefit.”

Amendment 100 requires the Racing Commission to award a casino gaming license to a casino applicant to be located in Pope County. Applicants must be located “within two miles of the city limits of the county seat.”

Therefore, neither Judge Cross nor the Quorum Court have the authority under Amendment 100 to award a casino gaming license or select the licensee.

Gulfside Casino is requesting that the CNB EDA be voided as it claims it was against public policy.