Saracen Casino Design Case Reaches Settlement

Saracen Casino Design Case Reaches Settlement
Saracen Casino Resort’s first renderings were by Marlon Blackwell Architects of Fayetteville, top left, and were provided by Blackwell’s attorney. Saracen Development released HBG Design’s image, top right, in a news release in December 2019. Saracen Casino’s latest rendering, bottom, was provided by the casino. A lawsuit over the design has been settled.

Renowned Fayetteville architect Marlon Blackwell will now receive credit for designing the $350 million Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff.

If you recall, Blackwell alleged in a federal lawsuit filed in late 2019 that his firm designed the casino, but a Memphis design firm — a firm Blackwell brought into the project — was taking credit for it.

Blackwell also alleged in the suit that HBG Design Inc. “provided false information” to John Berrey, who at the time was chairman of the Quapaw Nation, leading to Blackwell’s firm being removed from the project in 2019. With Marlon Blackwell Architects off the job, HBG would receive all the fees for the project instead of splitting them with Blackwell’s firm, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Little Rock. Blackwell said his share of fees should have been $4.45 million.

MBA named HBG, Saracen Development LLC and Joseph Byrd, in his official capacity as chairman of the Quapaw Tribal Business Committee, as defendants. (When the lawsuit was first filed, Berrey was named as a defendant in his official capacity, but he lost an election in July 2020 to Byrd.)

But both sides reached a settlement last week and asked that the case be dismissed, which it was on Tuesday. The terms of the settlement were confidential.

“We are very, very happy to have this lawsuit fully resolved to MBA’s satisfaction,” Blackwell said in a statement to Whispers. Blackwell is represented by Mark Henry of the Henry Law Firm in Fayetteville.

As a result of the settlement, Saracen and HBG Design are now required to provide the following attribution statement on all future drawings, submissions and public displays for the Saracen Casino Resort: “HBG Design, Inc., architect of record, derived from an original design by Marlon Blackwell Architects, P.A.”

HBG also is happy that the case is closed. “We are pleased the issues were resolved to the satisfaction of all parties,” said attorney Jason Campbell of the Little Rock law firm Anderson Murphy & Hopkins, who is representing HBG.

Attorney Ronald Hope of Hope Trice O’Dwyer & Wilson of Little Rock, who represented Saracen Development and Byrd, had “no comment” on the case.