REFRESHMENTS: There are food and drink in the Oxbow Lounge at the Saracen Annex.

The Saracen Casino officially opened its gambling annex at 11 a.m. today in Pine Bluff, after a surprise test run to a full house Friday night. In addition to hundreds of slot machines, the annex will offer sports betting, approved Monday by the state Racing Commission.

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Gambling is underway in Pine Bluff only about 100 days after license approval and less than a year after state voters approved expanded casino gambling in the state last November.  Pope County is still locked in controversy over who, if anyone, will be allowed to build the other new casino authorized by amendment. Southland in WEst Memphis and Oaklawn in Hot Spring, already in the casino business, have speedily ramped up full-fledged casino operations.

Jefferson County and Pine Bluff are happy with the Saracen project, which includes a hotel and full-fledged casino now under construction. It’s a product of the Quapaw Nation and their private development arm.

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The Quapaws once made their home in Arkansas. Indeed, they were interested in using ancestral land near the Little Rock Port for development, but the Little Rock business and government community rose up in force against the idea of an Indian casino in Little Rock. So Pine Bluff gets the jobs and visitors.

The Saracen press crew put together this bit of tribal history that you might find interesting.

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