POPE COUNTY, Ark. – A well-known national hotel and entertainment casino chain is eyeing the River Valley for its newest location.

Warner Gaming announced Tuesday its plans to partner with Hard Rock Hotel & Casino to open a new hotel and casino in Pope County.

“I think it would be good; maybe bring some jobs,” Jason Fort says.

Fort owns a tattoo shop in downtown Russellville. He sees the benefit in welcoming Hard Rock to town.

 “I’ve been to a few of them. I like them, personally. It’s a good atmosphere.”

Last November, voters in Arkansas approved an amendment that grants the state four casino licenses, one of them will be issued in Pope County.

“I think it will be a good income for the county,” Anita Vanravensway says.

She’s lived in the county for nearly 40 years.

“There’s a lot to do if you do a lot of outdoor things, but there’s not a lot to do if you want to take someone; entertain somebody.”

Warner Gaming says it plans to apply with the Arkansas Racing Commission next month. The company says it is looking at several locations in Pope county but has not publically identified a certain area.


LAS VEGAS, Nev. (News release) – Warner Gaming, a hospitality and entertainment company operating resort properties throughout the western and midwestern United States, announced Tuesday that it has teamed up with the iconic Hard Rock brand to propose a new fully-integrated resort with casino gaming for Pope County, Arkansas.

In addition to state-of-the-art casino gaming, the resort planned for Arkansas River Valley will include a best-in-class hotel; a variety of dining options from casual to upscale; conference facilities; indoor and outdoor venues for live entertainment; and other amenities. “We aim to deliver to Pope County a facility that will attract visitors throughout the region and beyond,” said Bill Warner, owner and CEO of Warner Gaming. “With its truly global reach, the Hard Rock brand will help us do that.”

Having a presence in 75 countries — including 185 Hard Rock Cafes, 27 hotels and 11 casinos – the Hard Rock brand is one of the most recognizable in the world. “We are pleased with the opportunity to bring the Hard Rock brand to Arkansas and continue our relationship with the Warner Gaming team,” said Jon Lucas, chief operating officer of Hard Rock International.

The Warner Gaming team has a long history of success with the Hard Rock brand. Since 2011, Warner Gaming has managed the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2014, Warner Gaming opened the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City, Iowa after being awarded the gaming license in a competitive application process. The property has delivered a variety of economic and community benefits to Sioux City, a community with about 80,000 residents. 

“It’s great to have a community-minded partner that really understands that it’s not just about their corporate success but the success of our whole community,” said Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott. “Warner has delivered, and they continue to deliver.”

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City features a 4-diamond hotel, various restaurants that have become local favorites, a retail store, an indoor venue for live music and comedy, and Battery Park – an outdoor concert venue featuring world-class entertainment such as Chris Stapleton, Willie Nelson, Boston, Journey, the Counting Crows and Collective Soul. In less than five years, this venue has staged 563 shows and sold almost 300,000 tickets, with ticket purchases tracked from all 50 states in the U.S., six Canadian provinces, and a variety of countries throughout the world.

In 2015, the Iowa Tourism Office named the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City as the “Outstanding Attraction” for the entire state. In 2018, the Global Gaming Exposition in Las Vegas, Nevada named the Battery Park venue as the “Outstanding Casino Arena/Amphitheater.”

“We feel that the accolades and recognition received by our Sioux City property have provided a tremendous tourism draw to the area,” said Warner. “We look forward to replicating this success in Arkansas.”

In November of 2018, Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the issuance of four casino gaming licenses, including one for a location in Pope County, Arkansas.

Warner Gaming will file its application with the Arkansas Racing Commission in May, which will include a proposal describing further details of the project.

“Arkansans have decided to keep the jobs and tax revenues associated with casino gaming within the state, and we are excited for the opportunity to be a part of that,” said Warner. “In the coming weeks, we will continue our discussions with Pope County residents so that we can get a feel for what the community would like to see in a project like this. Our past experience has taught us that community input and involvement is critical to our success.”

Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, Warner Gaming is a hotel/casino development and management company operating in communities throughout the United States, including Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico and Washington. Warner Gaming was founded in 2008 by casino veteran Bill Warner, who owns the company and serves as its chief executive officer. Warner Gaming and Bill Warner have held 38 gaming licenses or suitability determinations to operate casinos in a total of 28 jurisdictions in the United States, Canada and Europe.