Why Jerry Jones’ planned Arkansas casino could be delayed by lawsuits
Jerry Jones’ hospitality company Legends is facing delays from legal challenges and community setbacks in its bid to build a $225 million licensed casino in Arkansas in partnership with Cherokee Nation Businesses.popular casinos
In a special meeting of Pope County governing officials Monday night, elected members failed to repeal an ordinance that requires a citizen vote before approving casino developments, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Repealing the law would have invalidated lawsuits filed over how the casino proposal, backed by Legends and the Cherokee Nation Businesses, gained the endorsement of local officials without a public vote. A hearing is scheduled next week, and a county judge said the litigation already cost the county $17,000, according to the Democrat-Gazette.
Multiple lawsuits have been filed over the push for casino development in Pope County — two on behalf of citizens and one by a competing casino developer.
Jones’ Legends Hospitality partnered with the Cherokee Nation on its casino plan, which got the nod from local officials earlier this summer. The approval was controversial, with competing casino developers alleging that officials decided to endorse Legends’ plan behind closed doors before hearing other offers.
Legends did not return requests for comment. A spokesperson for Cherokee Nation Businesses emphasized in a statement to The Dallas Morning News that the tribe, Legends and Jerry Jones weren’t named in the lawsuits against county officials and the Arkansas Racing Commission.
After competing developer Gulfside Casino Partnership sued the state racing commission, the agency reopened its licensing application process through November.
Part of the licensing process requires that a developer obtain letters of support from local officials. Legends submitted its casino proposal to the Arkansas racing commission in May and unveiled the plans publicly in August. Pending Gulfside’s appeal, set for a Nov. 25 hearing, Legends could potentially be the only applicant with the required letters of support.
The casino license in Pope County is the last to be awarded in Arkansas, where voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 to allow four casinos in the state.
Legends Hospitality was formed in 2008 to manage hospitality services at Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium) and Yankee Stadium. Founded by Jones and late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, Legends has since become a major player in the sports marketing industry, landing deals to handle everything from premium seating sales to sponsorship deals at a host of sports venues.
The Legends-Cherokee Nation plan includes 1,200 slot machines, a 200-room luxury hotel, a music venue and an outdoor water park. It would be operated by Cherokee Nation Businesses, which describes itself as the nation’s largest tribe, with 360,000 citizens and more than $1 billion in revenue in 2017.