The citizens group that opposes a casino in Pope County filed a new legal action Friday afternoon in circuit court in Little Rock seeking an injunction against award of a casino permit in Pope County.
Citizens for a Better Pope County said the state Racing Commission had no legal authority to opene a second application period for a casino permit in the county, authorized under Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution adopted by voters in 2018. The group’s argument is that another round of applications was legal under commission rules only if the first round expired without an application. In fact, there were five applications, all rejected by the Racing Commission for lack of required letters of support from current elected officials in Pope County.
The citizens group backed a November 2018 referedum in which Pope County voters said there should be a local election before county officials endorsed a casino proposal. The Quorum Court approved a Cherokee casino proposal without such an election. The ordinance was ruled unconstitutional by a circuit judge and that opinion was on appeal when the Quorum Court moved to moot the issue by repealing the ordinance.
All of that, the new legal action says, doesn’t affect the argument that a second application process wasn’t legal.
This suit names only the Racing Commission. It is an appeal of an administrative action, which means Pulaski County should be the proper venue. Circuit Juge Tim Fox has resisted hearing a casino lawsuit assigned to him, but this latest legal action was assigned to Circuit Judge Chip Welch.
The petition seeks to enjoin the Commission from issuing a permit at its meeting Monday, Jan. 6. It has applications pending from the Cherokee and the Choctaw tribes, the latter without endorsement from local officials. Jerry Malone, attorney for the citizens group, is working to schedule a hearing this week.
Here’s the lawsuit.