$250M casino resort proposed for Pope County; opinions remain split

Local News

POPE COUNTY, Ark. — Getting a first look at the proposed river valley casino resort, Bob Balkman can’t get enough. 

“It’s only a dream to come to Pope county, just be a dream,” Balkman said. 

A dream Gulfside Casino Partnership co-owner Terry Green wants to come true. 

“We felt like this was just the perfect market for us because it was the same size casino as I started 25 years ago,” Green said. 

Green wants to build the River Valley Casino Resort- a three-phased 250-million dollar casino resort in Russellville. 

He says it would add 1,500 jobs and pump 24.5 million dollars into the local economy through taxes. 

 “We’re good guys, we want to do good for the community, and we want the community as a partner,” Green said. 

But what Green is trying to grow in Pope County, not everyone is supporting. 

“Personally I just believe that it’s wrong for this state to force this upon us,” Harold Tate said. 

Tate says what’s holding back his support isn’t the money, but the morals. 

“My concern is with the ethical and moral issues behind the gaming and gambling,” Tate said. 

“If you don’t want to game, you don’t have to. Don’t go,” Balkman said. He says he travels to casinos in Oklahoma with his wife for mostly the dining and shows. 

With each side doubling down, the ultimate outcome is a crapshoot. likely left to lawyers in months, possibly years to come. 

The gaming commission says to receive a license a letter of support from the current head of the local municipality is mandatory. 

A referendum was passed in November that requires voters to approve a casino in their county. 

If the people vote yes, the county judge can write the letter of support and a casino can move in. 

Gulfside says they have a letter of support from the former mayor and former county judge that they will submit in its application for a license and see what happens. 

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