Quapaw Nation hosts groundbreaking ceremony for new $350M casino resort in Pine Bluff, Arkansas

After on June 13, 2019, having been granted a gaming license to open a casino and resort on its ancestral territory in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, on Monday the Quapaw Nation broke ground on a $350 million gambling facility expected to open in the southern U.S. state next year.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on August 5, 2019, as the Downstream Development Authority of the Oklahoma-based Quapaw Nation, along with local and state officials, celebrated the planned Saracen Casino Resort.

According to the Associated Press via U.S. News and World Report…

Located approximately 38 miles (60 kilometers) south of Little Rock, the casino is slated to open in June 2020, to be followed by the opening of its 300-key hotel and entertainment venue in December the same year. The Jefferson County casino resort is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs and its 80,000 square foot gaming floor will reportedly include 50 table games and 2,000 slots.

At Monday’s ceremony, Arkansas Lieutenant Governor, Tim Griffin, called the coming casino resort a “game changer.”

According to Fox16 News, Griffin, who has held the post since January 2015 under Governor Asa Hutchinson, said the coming casino resort is something the area has been waiting for.

“They’re rightfully excited about the jobs and the opportunity that are going to follow this project here in the region,” he added.

Also commenting on the employment options, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said…

“Should they find themselves down on hard times, now they can find themselves employed and making good money, taking care of their loved ones.”

John L. Berrey, Chairman of Saracen Development, LLC, the resort development group whose parent is the Quapaw Nation-owned Downstream Development, said the highly-anticipated project will have an ‘immediate, significant and long-term positive impact‘ on both Pine Bluff and Jefferson counties, and Arkansas.

Annex to open in October:

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The federally recognized tribe has already begun construction on a smaller casino annex that will house 300 slots, located at the adjacent site of a former truck stop. The mini-casino is the first phase of the project and will reportedly require less work as it is basically a renovation of the truck stop portion. Work on the annex, which is expected to open this October, and the main casino, hotel and convention center will be carried out simultaneously, according to the earlier report.

Berrey said in June that…

“At the time we open the Annex, you’ll see the foundation, steel beams and a lot of activity happening at the Saracen main complex… So it’s not one before the other.”

Arkansas amendment:

The Saracen Resort Casino is one of four casinos that were authorized after voters in Arkansas narrowly passed a state constitutional amendment as part of November’s mid-term elections. The measure allowed what was Oaklawn Racing and Gaming (now Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort) in Hot Springs and the former South 7BALL land Park Gaming and Racing (now Southland Casino Racing) in West Memphis to transform into full-scale casinos. The amendment also gave the Arkansas Racing Commission permission to authorize one similar facility each for the more rural Pope County and Jefferson County.

Hard Rock in Pope County:

Hospitality and entertainment management company, Warner Gaming, LLC, announced in April that it would partner with the Hard Rock brand to propose a new resort casino for Pope County.

Lone applicant:

Meanwhile, the tribal entity, Saracen Development, was the only applicant for the Jefferson County gaming license, which was approved during the June 13, 2019 meeting of the Arkansas Racing Commission.