The city of Russellville has been involved in a long and tiresome debate regarding casino operations. On Thursday, the issue finally moved towards a settlement as the City Council passed a resolution to let Cherokee National Businesses operate in their jurisdiction. They also tabled an ordinance that calls an election to decide if the city should annex land previously earmarked for a casino.
A long-running battle
The city has been fighting a long battle with Pope County which includes several complaints and lawsuits. The issue is sandwiched between vocal and adamant pro-casino and anti-casino groups which has made a resolution very difficult. However, City mayor Richard Harris, who is anti-casino, said that he would continue to reach a resolution with Pope County judge Ben Cross. He said that he is comfortable with the actions taken by the council.
Cross, on the other hand, said that he was pleased with the results. He added that the council had taken positive steps to help the economic development of the region in the future. This will also help in achieving cooperation between the county and the city.
What is the dispute all about?
The City Council and Harris have tried to annex a 130-acre property located on the Northern edge of the city. More specifically, it is located on the north of I-40 between Alaskan Trail and Weir Road. If the city owns the land where a casino will be built, it will collect a 19.5% revenue. The county will receive about 8%. However, if the county exercises jurisdiction on the land, the city will not receive any revenue.
Cherokee Nation received a letter of endorsement from the mayor of Dover Roger Lee recently. Dover is located just 10 miles to the north of Russellville and a casino there could give serious competition to the city. The county and city now aim to mend their relationship and ensure that they find a mutually cooperative and beneficial agreement.
The Thursday agreement comes days after the state Racing Commission closed its second window for submitting a casino license application in Pope County. Choctaw Nation and Cherokee Nation submitted their applications to operate a casino in the county. The Pope County Quorum Court and Cross both endorse Cherokee Nation. However, Choctaw Nation’s proposal didn’t have any endorsements. The stakes are lined up in favor of Cherokee Nation as of now, but it would be interesting to note how the county and city take their dispute forward.