Pine Bluff, Jefferson County Leaders Pen Letters of Support for Quapaw Nation Casino

Local leaders express support for proposed casino in Pine Bluff following the authorization of casino expansion in Arkansas

The Quapaw Nation has received letters of support from city and county leaders to build a full-scale casino in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. If the proposed Saracen Casino Resort receives the necessary approval, it will become one of the state’s first casino properties under the recently implemented changes to Arkansas’ gambling law.

News emerged earlier this week that Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington and Jefferson County Judge Booker Clemons have penned letters to the Arkansas Racing Commission to express their support for the proposed casino property. The gambling venue will be developed and operated by Quapaw Nation’s Downstream Development Authority, which applied for a gaming license from the state’s regulator following the November 6 ballot that saw the passage of the so-called Issue 4.

The legislative measure made it to the ballot after multiple hurdles earlier this year. The proposed amendment to the state’s gambling law was rejected by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge several times as the official sought more clarity in the way said amendment was formulated.

Issue 4, as it appeared on the November 6 ballot, called for the authorization of two new casinos in Jefferson and Pope Counties and the addition of casino gambling at the existing gambling operations at Southland Gaming & Racing in West Memphis and Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs. The proposed amendment was supported by 54% of Arkansas voters.

The new casinos in Jefferson and Pope Counties require support from local leaders in order to be given the green light to be built, under the recently amended law. The existing racetracks that were allowed to host casinos are exempt from this requirement.

Commitment to the Community

Mayor Washington and Judge Clemons wrote fairly similar letters of support, saying that they had met with Downstream representatives and had discussed the planned casino. Both letters praised tribal leaders’ belief that the Quapaw Nation has the “experience, commitment to the community, and qualifications needed” to run a casino in Pine Bluff as the city has struggled with loss of population, growing crime rates, poverty, and other social issues.

The tribe has previously explained that Saracen Casino Resort was selected as the name of the venue in honor of a former Quapaw chief who was buried in Pine Bluff. Developers believe that the casino will commence operations by the early 2020, if it is given the necessary approval.

Quapaw Nation chairman John Berrey said in a press release from earlier this week that it has long been their goal to revitalize Pine Bluff and Jefferson County as they believe it to be their duty to take care of their original homeland. The tribal chair also touted their casino project as one that will create hundreds of new jobs and would generate millions of dollars in tax money for the city and the county.

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