The Gulfside Casino Partnership announced on Wednesday an ambitious plan to invest $405 million in a new casino and resort in Pope County, aiming to stimulate the local economy significantly.

The proposal includes a substantial upfront payment of $65 million to Pope County, Russellville, and other nearby communities to bolster economic development efforts, according to a report published by KATV ABC 7. Gulfside Casino Partnership has committed to investing $40 million directly into Pope County, Arkansas, with an additional annual contribution of $2 million for ongoing economic growth initiatives.

Terry Green, co-owner of Gulfside, expressed his enthusiasm for the project, stating: “The unveiling of this visionary project marks a pivotal moment for Pope County and the Arkansas River Valley. Our proposed River Valley Casino Resort will redefine regional tourism with 70,000 square feet of unparalleled gaming space, 1,500 state-of-the-art slot machines, 50 table games, and a dedicated sportsbook, among other world-class amenities. This high-end destination will drive economic development in the region and be an employer of choice, fostering a thriving community for generations to come.”

The River Valley Casino Resort will feature 300 hotel rooms, a steakhouse, a casino lounge, a 24-hour café, and a coffee and pastry shop. The resort’s amenities will also include an outdoor amphitheater and entertainment area, a resort pool with cabanas, a spa, a fitness center, a convention center, and meeting spaces.

“Our goal from day one has been to offer the citizens of Pope County and Arkansas a best-in-class resort experience,” stated Casey Castleberry, Gulfside’s counsel. “We are proud to present that offer to the Pope County Quorum Court, along with a landmark investment in the community.”

Gulfside anticipates that the project will create 1,695 new jobs in the region, with an estimated annual payroll of $60.5 million. The organization also plans to reinvest its projected tax revenue of $29.5 million back into state communities.

“Gulfside Casino Partnership is more than just a tourist destination or local employer; it is an economic driver and philanthropic partner committed to the prosperity and vitality of our Pope County communities,” Castleberry added. “As part of our commitment to the region, we are exploring an option to purchase nearly 20 acres from the City of Russellville that had previously been acquired for a convention center.”

The City of Russellville has an option to approve the purchase of an additional 20 lakefront acres for no more than $5 million. If the option is approved, Gulfside will provide $10 million to Russellville. Should the city choose not to sell the property to Gulfside, Russellville will still receive $5 million, adjusting the total Economic Development Agreement to $60 million. Gulfside also plans to invest close to $15 million in five other communities across Pope County.

“With a focus on excellence, innovation, and community engagement, the River Valley Casino Resort represents a bold step forward in regional tourism and economic development for Russellville, Pope County, and Arkansas,” Castleberry stated. “Russellville is poised to become the Gateway to the Ozarks and the Buffalo National River Country. Simply put: River Valley Casino Resort is a sure bet to bring Arkansas more jobs, more entertainment, and 50% more tax revenue than any other option on the table.”

Approval Needed from Court and Commission

Before proceeding, Gulfside must secure approval from the Pope County Quorum Court and then submit an application to the Arkansas Gaming Commission. The Pope County Quorum Court members will have the opportunity to grant Gulfside a resolution of support at their next regularly scheduled meeting on June 6. The Arkansas Racing Commission’s application window will close on June 11.

In response to Gulfside’s announcement, Cherokee Nation Entertainment President Mark Fulton stated, “Our more than $300 million project is not just an idea; it is a full-fledged economic development plan that has been in the works for over five years with the required support of Pope County leaders. We own more than 325 acres of land and have obtained our Large-Scale Development permit from the City of Russellville. Our shovel-ready development positions us to be open and operating more than a year ahead of any other proposals. Legends Resort & Casino is a world-class entertainment destination that will bring thousands of jobs to Pope County and provide more than $5 billion in economic impact over the first 10 years. Our next step is to submit an application for our casino resort destination before the Arkansas Racing Commission deadline on June 11.”

Pope County Judge Ben Cross has given his support to Cherokee Nation Entertainment, stating, “Cherokee Nation Entertainment has been a constant in the community for five years now. They have been property owners. They have invested in multiple non-profits and supported multiple community events. I have a five-year track record to base that support on.”

Cross believes Cherokee Nation offers more comprehensive benefits, stating, “They have the ability to build more than a resort casino. They have a 20-year growth plan and that is why over the past several years they have acquired so much property because their growth plan goes beyond a casino resort.”

Despite Judge Cross’s support for Cherokee Nation, Pope County JP Lane Scott voiced his preference for Gulfside, stating, “I think we are getting backed into a corner that we are going to have a casino so if we do have a casino, I would rather have somebody other than the Cherokee because of the way they have behaved. I like what Gulfside has said. I like their attitude, and I like the people. I would like to have an operator if we have to have a casino that will not run the county but run a casino and I think they fit that bill.”

The final decision now rests with the Pope County Quorum Court and the Arkansas Gaming Commission, who will determine the future of these competing casino proposals.