Former Pope County Judge Seeks to Dismiss Lawsuit by Casino Opponents

by Sarah Campbell-Miller  on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 3:43 pm   2 min read

Jim Ed Gibson, the former Pope County judge, has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by opponents of a Mississippi company's plan to build a casino in the county. 

The lawsuit, which Gibson claims is unconstitutional, seeks to invalidate letters of support for the casino that were sent by Gibson and former Russellville Mayor Randy days before their terms ended on Jan. 1.

Gibson did not run for re-election in 2018, and Horton lost his re-election bid to Richard Harris. Harris and newly elected County Judge Ben Cross have expressed reservations about $250 million casino Gulfside Casino Partnership wants to build.

In November, Arkansas voters passed a constitutional amendment that granted casino licenses to existing Arkansas racetracks in Garland and Crittenden counties and provided for new licenses to be granted in Jefferson and Pope counties. That amendment requires local leaders to endorse, through letters of support, the company applying for a casino license in their community.

A majority of Pope County voters rejected the statewide amendment but approved a local ordinance that says they get to vote on whether local leaders can endorse a casino operator. 

Gibson’s motion claims the lawsuit should be dismissed because the ordinance is unconstitutional “for at least two reasons. First, it creates an additional qualification for obtaining a casino license, not found in Amendment 100, and second, it places a heightened burden upon passage of a referendum, in violation of Article V, Section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution.” The second part refers to the ordinance requiring a supermajority of the county’s voters to approve a letter.

The judge’s motion also reasons that the lawsuit should be dismissed because it doesn’t make an allegation against Gibson “in his individual capacity” and “the relief it seeks can only be obtained against a sitting government official, which Judge Gibson is not.”

The Arkansas Racing Commission is meeting at 11 a.m. Thursday to review proposed casino licensing rules. 



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