Construction for the Saracen Casino and Resort in Pine Bluff is officially underway, after a groundbreaking ceremony took place Monday afternoon.
Speaking during the ceremony, John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Business Committee and Downtown Development Authority, said the main goal of this project is to create jobs to help Pine Bluff’s economy.
"This is about economic development… about hope… about keeping people here at home in the Delta and creating an economy based on people to come and visit, have a good time and enjoy this part of the state," Berrey said.
According to a news release, this is the first community development endeavor in Arkansas by the Quapaw Nation. It is expected to create 1,100 jobs. The Quapaw Nation, whose base is located in Oklahoma, applied for the available casino license in Jefferson County this past May. The Arkansas Racing Commission approved of the application in early June.
This project is a result of the casino amendment voters passed in the 2018 General Election. It allowed Oaklawn Racing and Southland Gaming and Racing to expand its casino services as well as the building of two additional casinos. One would be in Pope County while the other would exist in Jefferson County. The Racing Commission has yet to award a license for Pope County, which has dealt with delays concerning local permission for a casino’s construction.
The Pine Bluff casino’s gaming floor will consist of more than 2,000 slot machines and 50 table games. The facility will also feature a 300-room hotel, a conference center and other amenities.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin as well as Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Griffin said Pine Bluff and Jefferson County are continuously looking for ways to economically develop the area.
"This is a game changer for Pine Bluff and Jefferson County and will have an impact around the state of Arkansas," Griffin said. "When people drive here, when people work here, when people come from out of state…they’re traveling all over the rest of Arkansas. This is going to have a far-reaching economic impact here."
Rutledge, whose office initially rejected the casino expansion ballot proposal multiple times in 2018 before allowing it due to a court order, said this sort of project impacts more than the city of Pine Bluff.
"We can’t say thank you enough to the Quapaw for investing in Jefferson County, Pine Bluff and all of southeast Arkansas," Rutledge said.
The casino is slated to open near June, 2020.