RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas’ final unopened casino is now one step closer to completion, getting the “ok” from the city of Russellville for its development plan.          

But that doesn’t mean they’ll be rolling the dice anytime soon.

It’s been the big question since 2018: if Pope County should welcome a casino and what exactly that would be. For nearly five years, it’s split neighbors in the county into two camps: pro-casino and con, with the debate continuing even with a granted license to Legends from Cherokee Nation Businesses.

“I support it,” said Kayle Kelsoe, a Russellville local, shopping the local businesses. “[It’ll] bring more money into the city which equals more opportunities for the people who work here.”

But even with the latest win – approval of a large-scale development plan from the City of Russellville – questions remain, mainly if the casino will ever actually get built.

“Everyone’s wondering about that,” Kelsoe said, “including me.”

Two main issues stopping the deal include litigation against Legends questioning their experience with casinos and more than 100,000 signatures asking for a ballot measure pulling Pope County out of the casino running for good.

The uncertain future has many scratching their heads, but not all. Mark Avants is certain this gamble will pay off.

“Yes, I think it’s actually going to happen,” Avants said. “I’m a contractor in town. Every contractor in town is expecting this to happen.”

Even with the push-back, he’s hopeful Russellville will soon get its next best thing – a belief shared by Legends, who will continue their drive to finally call Pope County home.

“Everything is already in process,” Avants said. “I don’t know why people are trying to stop it.”

Legends in a statement Monday said they will pursue the final permits and approvals so once that litigation is wrapped up, they can break ground.

In terms of those 100,000 signatures, they will be analyzed to see if that question will be put to voters – who in November could decide if Pope County should have a casino at all.