Arkansas Judge Blocks Panel From Awarding Casino License

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LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas judge on Friday temporarily blocked a state panel from issuing a license for a casino to operate in Pope County.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order preventing the state Racing Commission from considering applications or issuing a casino license. The panel had planned to meet Monday to consider whether to issue a license.

Arkansas voters in 2018 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing casinos in Pope and Jefferson counties, and at a Hot Springs horse track and a West Memphis dog track. Pope County is the only of the four locations where a casino license has not been approved. 

Griffen issued the order in response to a lawsuit filed by a group that said the commission violated its rules by opening a second period to review casino applications. 

The ruling comes a day after another judge ruled the second application window was invalid. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox issued the ruling in a case lodged against the commission by a Mississippi casino operator.

The commission opened a second application period for Pope County after it rejected all five applicants in June for not having endorsements from current local officials.

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