The application permit period for new casinos in Arkansas opened today and the Quapaw tribe was first in line with an application for a permit for a Jefferson County casino.
State spokesman Scott Hardin said the Downstream Development Authority, a business arm of the Oklahoma-based Quapaw tribe, has applied for a permit for the Saracen Resort casino.
Under state rules, the application is kept secret until the state Racing Commission has made a decision. The Saracen proposal, said to be a $300 million investment, has support of local elected officials, a requirement under the casino approved by voters in 2018.
The amendment legalized existing casinos, with additional powers and a lower gambling tax rate, at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and Southland Park in West Memphis. It also provided for one casino each in Jefferson and Pope Counties. The Pope County situation is complicated. Multiple casino operators are interested, but, as yet, local officials aren’t ready to back an application without a vote required by a locally initiated ordinance approved by Pope County voters in November. There are questions about the legality of that referendum requirement, as yet unchallenged in court.
The application period runs through May 31. One question yet to be answered is whether potential operators will submit applications without local approval in Pope County. To date, no competitors have emerged for the Jefferson County casino.