The Pope County Quorum Court has voted to repeal a county ordinance that required the governing body to obtain permission from local voters before endorsing a casino license candidate.
This marks the second time that the quorum court has attempted to repeal the ordinance. On Monday, Oct. 21, the court failed to get enough votes to suspend procedural rules to repeal the ordinance. During the previous meeting, the quorum court lacked one vote for the two-thirds majority necessary to suspend rules.
One of the most pressing issues for the Quorum Court is litigation that has resulted from the body issuing their endorsement without voter approval. Citizens for a Better Pope County, an anti-casino organization, filed a lawsuit against Pope County Judge Ben Cross and the quorum court for the action.
According to the emergency ordinance, the lawsuit is “causing the County to expend significant money in attorneys’ fees and costs as well as threating (sic) the delay of benefits derived from an Economic Development Agreement (the “EDA”) entered into between Pope County and the Cherokee Nation Businesses/Legends Resort & Casino LLC…”
According to an interview with news station KARK, Cross said the vote was a “procedural” matter. He said that ordinance contradicted state law – namely Amendment 100 – and required repealing.
While Arkansas voters overwhelmingly voted to approve increased casino gaming in the 2018 election, Pope County citizens voted roughly 60-40 to pass an ordinance, entitled Ordinance 2018-0-42,that would prevent a casino license from being issued without the voters’ consent.
However, in August, the quorum court endorsed Cherokee Nation Businesses’ bid for the casino license. The Cherokee Nation Businesses’ Lends Resort and Casino was one of five casinos competing for the endorsement.