Local Leaders OK Quapaw Casino for Pine Bluff

by Sarah Campbell-Miller  on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018 2:18 pm   2 min read

An architect's renditions of the proposed Quapaw-run casino for Pine Bluff, tentatively named Saracen Casino Resort, after a historic Quapaw Tribe chief. Issue 4, approved by Arkansans, will allow casinos in four counties.

Local leaders in Jefferson County and Pine Bluff have given their support to Downstream Development Authority, the owner and operator of Downstream Casino Resort, as the area's casino operator.

Voters last month approved Issue 4, an amendment to the state Constitution allowing casinos at two existing racetracks — Oaklawn and Southland Racing and Gaming in West Memphis — and in Pope and Jefferson counties.

The amendment allows local leaders in Pope and Jefferson counties to select, through letters of support, who applies for a casino license in their community.

John Berrey, chairman of Downstream and the Quapaw Nation, announced Monday that Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington and Jefferson County Judge Booker Clemons provided letters to the Arkansas Racing Commission expressing their support for Downstream as the casino operator in Jefferson County and Pine Bluff.

Downstream operates two casinos in Oklahoma. It had already announced plans to build a casino — the Saracen Casino Resort — in Pine Bluff, with an estimated opening of late 2019.

Berrey told Arkansas Business in September that the tribe had hired renowned architect Marlon Blackwell of Fayetteville to design the casino, which they would model after the Downstream Casino Resort.

The Pine Bluff casino would have about 350 hotel rooms, five to seven restaurants, an entertainment facility and a spa. There would be 70,000 to 80,000 SF of gambling space and museums devoted to the history of the blues, Native Americans and African-Americans in the Jefferson County area.

The Arkansas Racing Commission is required to set rules for the state's new casino gaming structure by no later than March 14.

"It has long been our goal to energize Pine Bluff and Jefferson County through a significant economic investment," Berrey said in a news release. "As the original homeland for the Quapaw Nation, we believe we have an obligation to the region to be good corporate citizens. This casino resort will be a source of pride for the community. It will create hundreds of jobs and generate millions of dollars in taxes that will help improve the city's and county’s infrastructure and quality of life."

Letters from Washington and Clemons said Downstrean officials have held meetings with both of them and demonstrated the "experience, commitment to the community and qualifications" to operate a casino.

"I've been impressed by the professionalism and loyalty to our community that I've seen from Downstream and the Quapaw Nation," Washington said in the release. "Through our discussions over the last several months, it's clear that Downstream wants to be a key partner in the growth and development of our city. I know the residents of Pine Bluff will join me in welcoming this resort, and we encourage the state to move forward quickly with the approval process."



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