Arkansas Racing Commission finds bias in commissioner’s vote for Pope County casino license

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- The Arkansas Racing Commission found bias in Commissioner Butch Rice’s vote for which casino operator would receive the sole license for Pope County.

Cherokee Nation Businesses claims a co-owner of Gulfside Casino Partnership had a relationship with Commissioner Rice, and Rice’s scoring ultimately gave Gulfside the license.

Rice told the commission about a discussion he had with Terry Green on May 7, but said they did not talk about casinos.

Lucas Rowen, counsel for Gulfside Casino Partnership, released the following statement regarding today’s Arkansas Racing Commission meeting:

“As the majority of the commissioners recently affirmed, Gulfside is the best choice for Russellville, Pope County and Arkansas. While others want to protect out-of-state interests, our River Valley Casino Resort is focused on supporting Arkansas, with more jobs, more entertainment and 50 percent more annual gaming tax revenue,”

According to an affidavit from an attorney representing Cherokee Nation, Rice gave a 71-point advantage to Gulfside on his scoresheet (29/100 vs 100/100).

According to our content partner Arkansas Times, the voice vote was unanimous, with Rice not participating. He left the room before the vote.

Rice said Gulfside would bring in more revenue.

According to Rice, Gulfside had roughly 500 hotel rooms in their application, and Cherokee Nation Business had about 200 hotel rooms.

Rice’s attorney said the scoring was confusing.

Rice said he didn’t cast anything intentionally to harm any casino.

Rice also said the personal attacks made against him were uncalled for.

Rice said he is a little frustrated and wasn’t made aware of the meeting until Friday and was advised to get a lawyer. The commissioner got emotional and said he had to rush to get a statement ready for Monday’s meeting.

Commissioner Rice’s attorney said Rice was not biased.

A motion was passed for the two legal parties, Gulfside and Cherokee to meet with the attorney general to determine what’s best moving forward.

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