Outgoing Russellville Mayor Randy Horton and outgoing Pope County Judge Jim Ed Gibson have written letters in support of Mississippi-based Gulfside Casino Partnership's plan to build a $250 million, three-phase resort casino in Pope County.
The company submitted the judge's and mayor's letters to the Arkansas Racing Commission on Dec. 28 and 31, respectively.
"We are excited to make a significant economic investment in the Arkansas River Valley with this first-class resort," Terry Green, co-owner of Gulfside, said in a news release. "This project will create more than 1,500 new jobs and generate millions of dollars in taxes — improving the county's infrastructure and its overall quality of life."
Gulfside aims for its Pope County River Valley Casino to open by mid-2020. The company operates Island View Casino Resort in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Last month, Arkansas voters passed a constitutional amendment that granted casino licenses to existing Arkansas racetracks in Garland and Crittenden counties and provides for new licenses to be granted in Jefferson and Pope counties.
The amendment requires local leaders to endorse, through a letter of support, the company applying for a casino license in their community.
Earlier this year, Pope County voters approved an ordinance that states they get to vote on whether endorsements of a casino backer from local leaders move forward. Voters in that county did not vote in favor of the constitutional amendment for casino gambling.
Legal challenges to Gulfside's project are expected.
"We have been in discussions with local leaders since March," Casey Castleberry, Gulfside's attorney, said in the release. "The Arkansas Constitution clearly supedes any local ordinance. This process is playing out as intended by Amendment 100."
In response to the mayor's endorsement, he added in a separate statement, "For months now, Gulfside has presented its case for how it will help boost the local economy, create good-paying jobs and keep tax dollars here in Arkansas. This letter reiterates the strong support it has received from local community and business leaders in Pope County."
The commission is required to promulgate rules for the state's new casino gaming structure no later than March 14.