The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that Cherokee Nation Businesses has the right to intervene in a lawsuit over a casino license in Pope County.
The thursday Ruling reverses a decision by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox and sends the full situation back again to their court.
“This situation is section of ongoing litigation for the casino that is sole available in Pope County,” Shawn A. Womack, associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, wrote in Thursday’s opinion. “the question that is narrow us is whether or not the circuit court erred in refusing allowing Cherokee country organizations LLC, to intervene in litigation brought by Gulfside Casino Partnership up against the Arkansas Department of Finance and management additionally the Arkansas Racing Commission. We conclude that Cherokee ended up being eligible to intervention as a matter of right and for that reason reverse and remand the circuit court’s choice.”
But Gulfside has yet to break ground at the casino site while it awaits rulings in pending lawsuits and appeals.
[RELATED: See complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of casinos in Arkansas at arkansasonline.com/casinos]
“The protracted litigation surrounding the license has carried on in numerous actions brought before multiple circuit courts, this court and the Commission,” Womack wrote in Thursday’s opinion.
Dustin McDaniel, legal counsel for Cherokee Nation Businesses, said the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday vacated Fox’s order allowing Gulfside to apply for a casino license.
“This means that, for now, the state statute and Arkansas Racing Commission rule that both Gulfside that is expressly disqualify as applicant are back impact,” McDaniel said.
Arkansas Code Annotated § 23-117-101 and Casino Gaming Rule b that is 2.13.5( state that a letter of support from the county judge or a resolution of support from the quorum court is required and must be signed and dated by the county judge or quorum court “holding office at the time of the submission of an application” for a casino license.
The statute and rule stem from Amendment 100, which was approved by Arkansas voters as Issue 4 on the ballot in 2018.
According to Amendment 100, “The Arkansas Racing Commission shall require all casino applicants for a casino license in Pope County and Jefferson County to submit either a letter of support from the county judge or a resolution from the quorum court in the county where the proposed casino is to be located and, if the proposed casino is to be located within a city or town, shall require all casino also candidates to add a letter of help through the mayor into the town or city where in fact the applicant is proposing the casino become situated.”
Act 371 of 2019 clarified that the letters needs to be finalized by the working office holders at the time the application is submitted.
Gulfside presented a letter with its application, but the county judge who signed it was no longer in office by then.
Lucas Rowan, legal counsel for Gulfside, said, “The trial court determined Gulfside is a qualified applicant, and the Racing Commission chose Gulfside on the merits. We look forward to a resolution so we can proceed with construction to keep gaming dollars in Arkansas.”
Amendment 100 to the continuing state constitution permitted four casino licenses become granted in several elements of hawaii, including one in Pope County.
Five candidates, including Gulfside and Cherokee, sent applications for the Pope County casino permit throughout the initial might 2019 application period.
“The Commission denied each application as incomplete for failure to add a letter of help through the county judge or an answer through the Pope County Quorum Court,” published Womack.
In Arkansas, “county judge” refers to your primary officer that is executive of county. County judges are custodians of county property and buildings that are public
As part of its application, Gulfside had submitted a letter of help from County Judge Jim Ed Gibson.
The page ended up being dated prior to the termination of Gibson’s term on Dec. 31, 2018, however it ended up being submitted months that are several he left office, Womack wrote.
The commission determined that the letter was not sufficient because Gibson wasn’t the county that is sitting at enough time of this application.
“Gulfside’s application ended up being consequently rejected and an unsuccessful appeal that is administrative,” Womack wrote.
The Its appeal was denied on Aug. 15, 2019, Gulfside filed suit against the commission and the Department of Finance and Administration day. Gulfside desired an evaluation beneath the state’s Administrative Procedure Act and a judgment that is declaratory that the “county judge” rule and statute are contrary to Amendment 100.
“Gulfside asked the circuit court to reverse the Commission’s denial of its application and remand the matter to the Commission with instructions to award it the license,” wrote Womack. “It further sought to enjoin the Commission from accepting or considering any other applications and from issuing a license until further order of the court.”
In the meantime, Cherokee Nation Businesses obtained support from the Pope County Quorum Court and executed an development that is economic with Pope County’s sitting County Judge Ben Cross.”In trade for county officials’ exclusive help of its casino application, Cherokee devoted to spend over $40 million in Pope County,” published Womack. “Cherokee informed the Commission on Aug. 15
so it had acquired the prerequisite help and asked for reopening of this application duration.”
The Commission reopened and agreed the application period. Cherokee Nation Businesses submitted county official support to its application.
On Aug. 23, 2019, after it presented its application, Cherokee country companies moved to intervene in Gulfside’s lawsuit to defend its straight to have its application considered, published Womack.
“Though Gulfside initially opposed intervention, it withdrew its opposition by page to your court,” published Womack. “In its page, Gulfside clearly claimed so it didn’t object to Cherokee’s intervention. On Jan. 2, 2020, the circuit court joined an order intervention that is denying. It concluded that Cherokee did not submit a casino license application during the May 2019 licensing period.”
Fox declared the second application period unlawful under Casino Gaming Rule 2.13.4(d), which states, “then the Commission shall re-open the application process upon receipt of a written request by a casino applicant.”
“The if no application is received by the Commission for the casino licenses in Pope County court figured any reopening of this application duration ended up being banned until last resolution that is judicial made concerning applications from the initial period or until the Commission amends its rule under the Administrative Procedure Act,” wrote Womack. “Because Cherokee’s claim of standing to intervene was premised on its application submitted during the allegedly unlawful application that is second, the court held that Cherokee had no standing of any nature to intervene.”
“Cherokee asserts a interest that is sufficient the litigation based on its status as the only qualified applicant for the Pope County casino license,” wrote Womack. “According to the record, Cherokee is the only casino that is potential utilizing the help of this sitting county judge and Quorum Court.”
Cherokee Country Businesses also offers a agreement that is contractual invest more than $40 million in the county, if it is awarded the casino license.
“We conclude that Cherokee has a ‘recognized interest’ in the litigation based on its interest in the license, having its license application considered, and Pope County to its contract,” published Womack.
McDaniel stated the main concern now within the long-running debate may be the constitutionality of Arkansas Code Annotated § 23-117-101 and Casino Gaming Rule 2.13.5(b)(*)”Many thanks to today’s ruling, the Arkansas Supreme Court has the chance to hear that concern,” said McDaniel. “we shall start thinking about next actions into the other pending situations, however it wouldn’t normally seem sensible to litigate a casino that is temporary some of the Commission’s previous decisions as long as Gulfside is lawfully banned from filing a software to begin with.”(*)