Listen to The People


Listen to The People

The people of Pope County have been clear: They don’t want a casino.

Let us count the ways in which they’ve made their disapproval known: 1. County voters rejected what became Amendment 100 to the state Constitution by a vote of 60.6 percent to 39.4 percent. 2. County voters approved, 68 percent in favor, an ordinance that requires a special election and voter approval before the county judge can issue a letter supporting a casino. 3. Russellville voters elected, by a wide margin, a mayor who explicitly made opposition to a casino part of his platform. 4. The Pope County Quorum Court adopted a resolution in unanimous opposition to a casino.

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None of this appears to matter to lawyers for Gulfside Casino Partnership, the company that has proposed building a 600-room, $254 million hotel and casino in Russellville. One of the lawyers, Casey Castleberry, said that “the intent of Amendment 100 is clear. The state ‘shall’ establish four casinos, including one in Pope County.”

Late last year, the lame-duck county judge and the lame-duck mayor submitted letters to the state Racing Commission, tasked with promulgating operating rules for the new casinos, backing Gulfside’s proposal. After a public outcry, the commission amended its rules to allow endorsements only from officials in office at the time a casino application is made.

Gulfside’s lawyers, however, insist that Amendment 100 mandates a casino in Pope County. “Any rule promulgated by the Racing Commission which results in the issuance of less than four casino licenses is … unconstitutional,” Castleberry said.

We doubt that Arkansas voters, in approving the proposal, intended to force a casino on their neighbors. And when the issue winds up in court, as is likely, we hope the judiciary uses good sense in considering the wishes of the people a casino would most directly affect.