Quapaw Nation gets nod to operate proposed casino in Arkansas

In Arkansas, plans for the proposed Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff continue to move forward as the Downstream Development Authority, a subsidiary of the Quapaw Nation recently announced letters supporting the casino license application from local leaders in both city and county government.

The Quapaw Nation own and operate the Quapaw Casino and the Downstream Casino Resort, both located in neighboring Oklahoma.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette…

The letters of support written by Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington and Jefferson County Judge Booker Clemons (pictured below right) to the Arkansas Racing Commission satisfied a requirement in Amendment 100 to the Arkansas Constitution which states that new casino operations could be established in Jefferson and Pope counties provided there is local support from elected officials.

“an obligation to the region”

Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in the city of Hot Springs along with West Memphis’ Southland Park Gaming and Racing are both exempt from the requirement.

In the recent press release, John Berrey, chairman of Downstream and the Quapaw Nation said…

“It has long been our goal to energize Pine Bluff and Jefferson County through a significant economic investment. 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 mi 7BALL CC llions of dollars in taxes that will help improve the city’s and county’s infrastructure and quality of life.”

Expected opening:

According to Berrey, pending regulatory approval, Pine Bluff’s Saracen Casino Resort could open by late 2019.

The Racing Commission will reportedly meet Wednesday to discuss the casino amendment’s progress, according to Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the Department of Finance and Administration.

Letters not received:

At the time of the December 4 newspaper report, Hardin reportedly said that the letters of support of an applicant in Pope County claimed by the Downstream Development Authority had not yet been received by the agency.

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What was then Issue 4, was largely supported by the Downstream Development Authority and in addition to seeing the Arkansas Racing Commission authorize one casino each for the more for the two previously mentioned rural counties, allow Oaklawn Racing and Gaming and Southland Park Gaming and Racing to transform into full-scale casinos.

Limited offering:

Prior to November 6, 2018, when voters approved the constitutional amendment, both facilities were limited to offering electronic skill games under a 2005 state law.

According to a report from the Driving Arkansas Forward committee that sponsored Issue 4, of the $7.05 million that was raised for the aggressive campaign, $3.65 million was contributed to the committee by the Downstream Development Authority of the Quapaw Tribe in Quapaw, Oklahoma, while Cherokee Nation Businesses LLC in Catoosa, Oklahoma, contributed $2.28 million and Buffalo, New York-based Delaware North, parent company of Southland Park Gaming and Racing, added $1.16 million to the effort, as reported by the Arkansaw Democrat-Gazette.

Oaklawn expansion planned:

On the heels of the passage of Issue 4, Oaklawn Racing and Gaming announced plans to invest more than $100 million in an expansion project to include the addition of approximately 28,000 square feet of gaming space and the construction of a seven-story 200-room and suites hotel with an outdoor swimming pool, luxury spa, fitness center and restaurant alongside a 14,000 square-foot multi-purpose events center and more.

Possible 2020 completion:

According to Oaklawn, construction on the project will begin in May, after the 2019 racing season. January 2020 is the target completion date for the gaming expansion while the hotel and event center is expected to be completed later that year.

Prior to the passing of the ballot measure on November 6, there was also talk of Southland Park Gaming & Racing building a $200 million hotel and convention center, according to Talk Business & Politics.