As expected, Pine Bluff and Jefferson County officials have picked the Quapaw Tribe’s Downstream Development Authority as the county’s casino operator. The Quapaw Tribe has been working with Pine Bluff officials for five years to gain approval of its bid. The state Racing Commission still has to make the official award of the casino license, but it seems unlikely that another applicant will emerge. Applicants must have local support and casino experience. Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington and Jefferson County Judge Booker Clemons said in letters to the commission that they would exclusively support Downstream as the county’s casino operator, according to a press release.
The Saracen Casino Resort could open as early as late 2019, according to the release that’s attached in full below.
PINE BLUFF, Arkansas (Dec. 3, 2018) — Local leaders in Jefferson County and Pine Bluff have selected Downstream Development Authority, owner and operator of Downstream Casino Resort, as their casino operator pursuant to their authority under Amendment 100 of the Arkansas Constitution. The amendment protects local control and provides that local leaders may select, through a letter of support, who applies for a casino license in their community.
John Berrey, chairman of Downstream and the Quapaw Nation, announced today that Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington and Jefferson County Judge Booker Clemons have provided letters addressed to the Arkansas Racing Commission expressing their support for Downstream as the casino operator in Jefferson County and Pine Bluff. These support letters provide that the leadership’s support is exclusive to Downstream. Downstream has already announced plans for a major casino resort in Pine Bluff when state regulators approve its application.
“It has long been our goal to energize Pine Bluff and Jefferson County through a significant economic investment,” Berrey said. “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.”
According to letters from Washington and Clemons, officials with Downstream have held extensive meetings with both leaders and the group 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,” Mayor Washington said. “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.”
Arkansas voters, by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin, approved Issue 4 last month. The new constitutional amendment grants casino licenses to existing Arkansas institutions Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and Southland Park in West Memphis, and it provides for new licenses to be granted in Jefferson and Pope counties. The Arkansas Racing Commission is required to promulgate rules for the state’s new casino gaming structure by no later than March 14.
“The voters of Jefferson County overwhelmingly expressed their support for this amendment,” Clemons said. “They recognize, like I do, that our county will benefit from the positive economic impact Downstream Development Authority will provide to us. Downstream has longstanding ties to the state and to the community, and I am glad to be able to offer my support for its application.”
Downstream already operates two casinos, both in Oklahoma. According to Berrey, Pine Bluff’s Saracen Casino Resort could open by late 2019 pending regulatory approval.