Quapaw Tribe’s Downstream Development to Operate Jefferson County and Pine Bluff Casino
Jefferson County and Pine Bluff local leaders have chosen the Quapaw Tribe’s Downstream Development Authority to operate the county’s future casino. Unless another applicant comes forward, it’s likely the state Racing Commission will officially award the license to the Quapaw Tribe, which has been working with Pine Bluff officials for five years to obtain approval for its bid.
Support for the Tribe and Casino
The casino, which will be called the Saracen Casino Resort, could open as soon as late 2019. A press release, fully quoted in an article by Arkansas Times, states that both Jefferson County Judge Booker Clemons and Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington have provided letters to the Arkansas Racing Commission to show their support for Downstream as the casino operator.
In Mayor Washington’s letter, she expressed her support:
“I’ve been impressed by the professionalism and loyalty to our community that I’ve seen from Downstream and the Quapaw Nation. 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.”
Judge Clemons also supports the casino in his letter:
“The voters of Jefferson County overwhelmingly expressed their support for this amendment. 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.”
John Berrey, the chairman of Downstream and the Quapaw Nation said of the plans:
“It has long been our goal to energize Pine Bluff and Jefferson County through a significant economic investment. As the original homeland for the Quapaw Nation, we believe that 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.”
Opposition to the Casino
Two state letters legislators from Pine Bluff signed a letter earlier this year voicing opposition to Issue 4. One of those lawmakers, State Representative Vivian Flowers (Dem), said on Monday that she questions whether developers could make sure that the casino hired local citizens.
Despite her concerns, all signs point to Downstream being fully committed to developing the community through local resources and workers.
The Downstream Development Authority
The Downstream Development Authority is an arm of the Quapaw Nation and is named for its casino in Oklahoma. Downstream was a principal backer of the constitutional amendment named Issue 4, which was a proposed amendment to expand casino gambling. Fifty-four percent of Arkansas voters said “Yes” to Issue 4 on November 6th, and 64 percent of voters in Jefferson County said “Yes.”
What Is Issue 4?
Issue 4 is now Amendment 100 of the Arkansas Constitution. It allows for casinos to be licensed in both Pope and Jefferson counties. It also allowed for casinos to be licensed alongside pre-existing gambling operations at Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs and Southland Gaming & Racing in West Memphis.
As part of the amendment, any proposed casino developers must obtain letters of support from local leaders.
What’s Next for the Casino?
A spokesperson for the Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees the Racing Commission, said the commission would meet Wednesday to discuss the progress of the casino amendment. One of the issues that will be discussed is whether Judge Clemens’ letter of support would be valid under the Constitution’s rules since his term as county judge ends on January 1, 2019. His successor, Jefferson County Sheriff Gerald Robinson, has previously said that he would welcome the casino.
About the Quapaw Tribe
The Quapaw Tribe is centrally located in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, on 13,000 acres of land. They already own two casinos: Quapaw Casino and Downstream Casino. Both of these casino resorts offer all of the amenities of first class establishments like premium hotel rooms, golf courses, entertainment, highly rated restaurants, conference venues, popular table games, slot machines and poker rooms.
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